West Chester trustees originally agreed to sell the building to Todd and Jamie Minniear, owners of the Community Montessori School, for $250,000.
However, residents worried about traffic and other issues derailed the sale.
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The Minniears sued after the Board of Zoning Appeals denied a re-zoning — the lawsuit was later tossed out on a technicality — and the trustees in July agreed to put a request for proposals out, looking for someone to take what they have previously called a money pit off their hands. The minimum price they said they would accept was $50,000.
The highest bid came in from Hamilton residents Cory sand Tricia Reynolds. According to their proposal, they currently own a historic home, built in 1890s, in the Dayton Lane Historic area of the city.
They said by using the schoolhouse as a residence — the land it sits on is zoned residential — they can ensure it is well maintained and any “major issues could be caught and dealt with early.” They said they won’t be selfish with the historic treasure either.
“We are social people! Even though it will be a private residence, we would love to be involved and host events in the community as we do our current residence,” they wrote in their bid proposal.
The lowest bid came from the West Chester/Union Township Historical Society at $1. It wasn’t a new proposal, however. The group made the same offer in February.
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West Chester tried to forge a deal with the historical society two years ago, offering to sell the building to the group for $1 if they would assume all maintenance.
But that agreement was never consummated because the historical society wanted the township to continue upkeep of the brick building and its three-acre grounds.
In its newest proposal, the historical society said it will “handle the lawn mowing, snow plowing, repairs and pay utilities” and will fund-raise to accomplish this.
West Chester Trustee Mark Welch previously expressed misgivings about the historical society’s offer because there were no concrete plans to raise money for maintenance of the building.
“I would certainly take a look at it,” Welch said. “But let’s just be honest, there’s a lot of ‘oh yes we can’ but you’ve never done it. You may say ‘oh yes we will’ but one of the things that might help is the commitment by those people that call themselves part of the historical society to put their money where their mouth is. How much money can you come up with among yourselves?”
There are a number emails between Welch and David Lindenschmidt, a historical society member, that are part of the proposal. A benefactor list shows some members have pledged a total of $60,000 and a to-do list says if the trustees agree to the transaction, the society will immediately begin a “Save the Schoolhouse” campaign with a goal of raising $150,000 over six months.
Three other proposals were also to turn the schoolhouse into a home — two came in at $50,000 and another at $2,000.
Bryan Morales, an architect who lives in the township, said he plans to renovate the structure so his out-of-town visitors have a place to stay and would be willing to share the site with community groups like the historical society.
Morales gave the trustees two options: the asking price or $10,000 and a promise to spend $40,000 within a year on sustainability and rehabilitation improvements. He said in his proposal that he understands some might outbid him but asked trustees to consider the bigger picture.
“The financial benefit to the township lies in avoiding future maintenance, repairs and administrative resources for an underutilized property,” he wrote. “The sale price of this property does not represent a meaningful difference to the community, but the quality of the project and long-term stewardship of the property will be remembered for generations.”
Todd Minniear said he had planned to submit a proposal but is so busy with the school’s new location — it opened a second school in Liberty Twp. earlier this year — that he decided against it.
Trustee Ann Becker has said she favors turning the schoolhouse over to the historical society. Trustee Lee Wong said he wouldn’t budge off the asking price. Neither could be reached for comment Friday.