Photo courtesy of Bluff Park Drone
Former Berry High campus aerial 1
The Hoover school board wants to sell the 38.5-acre former Berry High School campus to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education for $11 million.
Hoover City Council members say they plan on Monday night to de-annex the 38.5 acres that were home to the former Berry High School on Columbiana Road
The Vestavia Hills Board of Education has offered to pay the Hoover Board of Education $11 million for the property, and the Hoover school board voted on April 18 to accept the offer.
However, for the deal to go through, the property must be de-annexed from Hoover and annexed into Vestavia Hills because the Vestavia Hills school board cannot legally operate a school outside of its city limits.
That condition gave the Hoover City Council a chance to block the sale, but all seven council members said they have no intention of doing so.
Council President Jack Wright said it’s the school board’s property and it needs a lot of money spent on it, and if the school board can put $11 million in the bank and that’s the board’s desire, the council will honor their desire.
The campus never had adequate parking for a school and is on the edge of Hoover anyway, Wright said.
The city of Hoover looked at the property long and hard and even offered to pay $9 million for it in April 2015, with the idea of turning it into a sports complex, Wright said. School officials did not act on the city’s offer because Superintendent Kathy Murphy wanted to first consider all potential educational uses of the property first, and the City Council rescinded its offer in November, having identified a better site for the sports complex, Wright said.
Councilman Gene Smith said last month that “obviously, it’s outlived its usefulness to the school system.”
At the time, he didn’t have any issue with de-annexing it unless he heard something else to change his mind, he said.
Councilman Joe Rives said “it’s their property. Why should I meddle with them? I try to be cooperative with the school board without trying to manage their business.”
Rives did say he was concerned about what would happen with the property if for some reason the sale to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education did not go through.
Councilman Jack Natter said if the school board wants to sell it, he will vote to de-annex it.
“As a council member, I don’t want to micromanage or second-guess the school board, and certainly I would hope they would have that same regard for the council,” Natter said.
Councilman John Lyda said last month he had not heard from constituents yet about the de-annexation but he thinks it would be bad business to “pull the rug out from the under the Board of Education.”
City leaders have known for 10 years that the property could potentially be sold and have known since the fall that Vestavia Hills was still interested in buying it, Lyda said. If someone had concerns about the school board selling the property, those concerns should have been raised before now, he said.
“Clearly, the Board of Education has no interest in the property and developing it for future use,” Lyda said.
Councilman John Greene said he has mixed emotions about de-annexing the property because it has been with the school system and city for so long. His wife, Assistant Superintendent Melody Greene, graduated from Berry High School and his children went there when it was a middle school, he said.
However, even though part of the campus is being used as the Crossroads alternative school and for office space for some central office employees, much of the building is in disrepair and it would cost a lot of money for the school system to get it back up to code for use again, Greene said.
“I think we’re at the point now where the best thing for the school system is to sell the property,” he said.
Councilman Brian Skelton said if the school board now believes that selling the Columbiana Road school site is in the best interests of the school district, he will fully support it. However, he personally believes that at “some time in the future, we’ll probably wish we had it back.”
In other business Monday night, the Hoover City Council plans to consider action designed to protect residents from unwanted intrusion by door-to-door peddlers and criminals seeking to get into people’s home under the guise of selling something.
An ordinance scheduled for a vote Monday would make it illegal to sell goods or services at private residences in Hoover without either an invitation from the resident or a $100 “solicitation and peddling” permit from the city.