Landowner goes on the offensive against board of education

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:18

    SPARTA-After weeks of intense public pressure from the Sparta Board of Education, the woman at the center of the school land controversy has decided to go public and tell her reasons for not wanting to sell her land to the municipality. "It is a matter of personal desire, rather than public necessity, that is driving the board's yearning to acquire (this) undeveloped property," reads in part a statement released on Tuesday by David Johnson, an attorney representing the Stamer family. In their statement, the Stamers recalled that this is not the first time the board of education has tried to condemn a portion of their 200-acre property located along Woodport Road. In 1957, according to the release, the board's efforts were defeated after a "strong opposition from the public." "It was bad for Sparta 50 years ago, and it's bad for Sparta today," Peter Stamer is quoted in the press release. The Stamers take special objection to "implications" made recently by the president of the Sparta Board of Education David Slavin, that Wendy Stamer, the current owner of the land, might be interested in selling the track of land. "She is adamant that she will never willingly allow the land to be developed for any purpose including as the site of a new public high school," reads another portion of the press release in response to Slavin's comments. Slavin is a former editor of this newspaper. For weeks, district officials, more notably, Slavin, have made clear their intentions to pursue all avenues to acquire the Stamers' land, including condemning the property, a legal maneuver that strips the landowner of his ability to refuse to sell. "It's a tough decision," said Slavin in an interview last week. "But, most folks agree we need a new high school. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions when you make the right decisions." Previously he had said that the Sparta board would do "everything that we have to do for the sake of our kids." Early this week, other school officials continue driving the message that the overcrowding situation in the Sparta schools has reached critical proportions. "The educational program in our town will be adversely affected if we do not do something about our facilities," said the Superintent of School Thomas Morton during Monday's board meeting (Please see page 3 for a complete story of the meeting). In their press release, the Stamers list several other factors for not wanting to sell their land, including environmental concerns, increased traffic in the area, safety issues and the tax burden it will represent for Sparta taxpayers. "The Stamers believe the board of education has ignored compelling issues of costs," the Stamers said in their statement, adding, "The taxpayers of Sparta Township already bear a heavy tax burden and the board's recent circulation of floating an $83 million dollar bond issue would severely strain the budgets of many homeowners." For over a year now, the Sparta Board of Education has been studying options for how to address the overcrowding issued faced by the school district. Last June an ad-hoc committee comprised of local residents recommended building a new school and the reassignment of some of the current facilities, as way to accommodate the increase in the student population, which is expected to pass the 4,000 mark in the next academic year. At left is the complete transcript of the Stamers' statement.