BRICK – Plans to sell the former Laurelton School are moving forward since the Planning Board voted to allow the school district to subdivide the property into two separate lots.
A 9,900 square-foot central receiving warehouse for the school district would remain on one of the lots.
The 8,500 square-foot school, which opened in 1934, has been vacant since 2008. Its most recent use has been for storage. The building would most likely be demolished by its new owner, said professional engineer Ryan Conklin, who gave an overview of the property during the Planning Board hearing on Jan. 23.
The elongated 3.176-acre property has driveways on Route 88 and Princeton Avenue, is located in a B-3 highway business zone, and could have a diverse array of uses, Conklin said.
It would be more attractive to buyers if the property met certain criteria, officials said.
The subdivision proposal has been tweaked since the board denied the application in 2013. With the old application, the lot’s area and depth were not big enough. With the new way the lots were divided, it now meets lot criteria, said Board of Education Attorney Ben Montenegro.
“You can’t come back with the same application unless you have made significant changes,” the attorney noted.
The lot being sold is 1.176 acres and leaves the second lot with compliant width, depth and size, and is consistent with adjoining lots, Conklin said.
The new configuration perpetuates the goals and objectives of the township’s Master Plan for the B-3 zoning district to encourage commercial development, already established in appropriate locations, as opposed to creating new commercial areas, he added.
Township Planner Tara Paxton said the school is cited in the township’s Master Plan as historically significant to the municipality, but many township schools were built in the 1930s-1940s, including the Osbornville School and Herbertsville School
“It does not qualify for, nor will it ever qualify for, historic assignment through the State Office of Historic Preservation or the National Register of Historic Places,” she said. “It’s been tried before and it’s been turned down, as far as I understand.”
The site of the former Laurelton School has had a number of environmental reviews, and there are significant mechanical, engineering, electrical and plumbing issues that would require a significant cleanup of the site, which might not lend itself to being preserved, Paxton added.
“It will most likely be a knockdown, but you never know,” Montenegro said. “We had an inquiry from a microbrewery, who liked the look of the building and wanted to renovate. We’ll see.”
The property is no longer convenient or necessary for school purposes, and the district is doing everything possible to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers while fulfilling its mission to educating township students, Montenegro said.
“It’s just sitting there vacant,” he said. “It’s zoned for B-3 and from a planning and zoning perspective, that’s the best thing for the school district and the township – get it back on the tax rolls.”
The property would be advertised for two weeks and then it would be put out to sale and sold to the highest bidder, he added.
School Business Administrator James Edwards said the minimum price for the site would be $620,000, the amount for which it was appraised.