Wellington council buys 25 acres for just $1

281

JASON HAWK
EDITOR

An unused 25 acres once meant for a new K-12 school is changing hands.

Village council members are spending the princely sum of $1 to buy back the property located north of Wellington High School, which they had gifted to the school system 15 years ago.

At the time, the board of education was struggling with increasing maintenance costs at the old McCormick Middle School on South Main Street. The solution, the board said, was to consolidate the district’s students on one campus.

The wooded area spanning from Meadow Lane north to Peck-Wadsworth Road was tabbed as the right spot.

The idea obviously fell through. Voters overwhelmingly rejected it, leading eventually to the construction of the new McCormick.

That was that. Officials more or less forgot about the vacant acreage — at least until a couple of weeks ago.

That’s when they remembered there was a provision built into the February 2004 sale contract: If the school board didn’t use the 25 acres by Sept. 30, 2019, the village could get it back for $1.

Now council is exercising that right, though there are no plans for developing the land.

“In principle, it’s better to own it than not,” said councilman Guy Wells.

Mark Bughman, who chairs council’s ordinance committee, said the property is not well-suited to building and the chance of it being fully developed is pretty slim.

“If you were were to walk back there, you would see the ravines are a 40-foot drop. It would take in the millions in order to make it right, because that’s where basically the water drains to,” he said.

A small portion could potentially be used for a few new homes or to expand the Wellington Mobile Home Park, he said.

No developer other than the school system has ever shown serious interest in acquiring the land, though, said village manager Steve Dupee.

At one time, the property was home to the Ramsey railroad tracks and you can still find tracks, in some places covered, running through Wellington and Pittsfield townships.

Bughman doesn’t want to see the ravines disturbed or the trees cut down. He’d prefer to see the Ramsey right-of-way preserved as a park where the railway’s history can be remembered.

“It’s a good place to be able to walk back there and have some retreat from everyday life,” he said.