The Fort Worth school district’s negotiations for the purchase of vacant land near a Jewish temple appear to be headed away from eminent domain, with an agreement in principle announced Monday.
The district has been trying to buy four parcels of land for a new school aimed at relieving overcrowding at Tanglewood Elementary, including property that is planned for a resort-style retirement home next to Congregation Avahath Sholom.
On Monday, the district said it reached an agreement in principle with the congregation — a move that would take eminent domain off the table if all parties can agree.
“From the very beginning we had hoped to arrive at a fair resolution that is amicable to all parties,” Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said in a statement. “We are pleased for our children that this agreement provides a path for us to move forward with our design and construction plans.”
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Any agreement must be approved by the school board, the congregation’s board and congregation members. The potential agreement is expected to be part of the school board’s next meeting set for Tuesday, Feb. 13.
The congregation is scheduled to review the potential agreement Sunday. The meeting was posted on the congregation’s Facebook page with a message: “We have received an offer from the Fort Worth Independent School District to purchase our vacant field. To accept or reject that offer, a special congregational meeting has been called. The motion to be presented will be: ‘To approve the agreement with Fort Worth ISD.’ ”
Steven S. Brown, who is on the board of directors at Ahavath Sholom, said the congregation will review the district’s offer and a separate pending offer to develop an upscale retirement home. The latter project is estimated to cost about $70 million.
“We are still talking to them. It is still in negotiation stage,” Brown said.
The details of the potential compromise, including how much the district offered for the property, were not disclosed Monday.
“It can’t be a done deal until we agree,” Brown said.
Last month, Congregation Ahavath Sholom announced plans to sell its land to a developer. Meanwhile, trustees authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire land for a new pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade campus in southwest Fort Worth.
Eminent domain allows a government entity to purchase private property for public use. Scribner has the authority to use eminent domain on vacant land owned by the congregation, as well as a Jewish Federation building and two former banks.
In December, the school board approved making final offers for a combined 4.7 acres of vacant land and property owned by Ahavath Sholom, which is located at 4050 S. Hulen St. The tracts of land eyed by the district also included bank properties for Frost Bank (1.66 acres) and First Command (5.4 acres.)
The $28 million Tanglewood project is part of a record $750 million bond program approved by voters in November.
“Everybody wishes this goes away. Everybody hopes they get a school. Everybody hopes it is not eminent domain,” Brown said, adding that there is also hope the congregation gets fair market value for the property.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.