Apparently, a developer wants some of the Druid Hills property in order to build an additional facility for the VA. That means jobs and tax revenue for DeKalb county.  Taxpayers should very much support this deal. 

Another suitor for DeKalb school land on North Druid Hills Road

The DeKalb County School District is again weighing whether to sell an unused swath of land near I-85, but the amount it might get has dropped considerably since the last buyer came shopping before the recession, say people familiar with the potential deal.

A real estate broker said officials are considering his proposal for an old high school site on North Druid Hills Road near Briarcliff Road.

The broker, Caldwell Zimmerman, said the Department of Veterans Affairs wants to build a health care facility, probably for outpatient care, on 12 to 15 acres, part of a larger property the school system considered selling to a commercial developer several years ago.

Zimmerman, who is with Colliers International, said the offer will be based on appraisals, but estimated the land is worth $800,000 to $1 million an acre.

“I’ve had a call back from the chief operating officer of the school system,” Zimmerman said. “He said they are discussing it.”

School board member Paul Womack is unenthusiastic about the possible deal. Womack, who chairs the board’s budget committee, said that from what he’d heard of the offer, it “grossly undervalued” the property.

The last suitor offered about 50 percent more per acre.

[Ed. Note: That would be the Sembler Co. Back when times were good. It will be a decade before land values recover to that level again.]

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65 Responses to Sell!

  1. concernforthekids says:

    So let me ask this simple question, would the VA pay annual property taxes to the county?
    I don’t think governmental agencies have to pay taxes.
    So why sell to the VA? A quick fix to the board’s mismanagement or our tax dollars?
    Think of the land as an annuity for the school system.
    If they sell the land to a (God forbid) commercial developer for a mixed use property then the county and school system would annually receive property taxes, retail sales taxes etc.
    I really do feel that our worst nightmares are being realized with the lack of leadership our board has.
    Does anyone have the Governor’s phone number?


  2. Ned says:

    If the land becomes federalized, no there will be no property taxes.

    However, it is not clear that this will occur–from the story it sounds like the land will be commercially developed FOR the VA’s use but still held by the developer, who would pay taxes. This is not uncommon–buildings have been built at Executive Park and Corporate Square for federal (CDC) use but still owned by the landlord.

  3. David says:

    Sounds like DCSS wants to have a fire sale of any vacant or unused property in order to make up for budget deficits. Problem is, real estate values are at an all time low. Anyone with an ounce of financial acumen would realize that now is NOT the time to sell property. In fact, it is a great time to buy property for the very same reason. Fast and Loose with taxpayer funded land/property. That’s DCSS for ya.

  4. wiserthanmyself says:

    What else–within the next 10 years or so–except development, can help bring property values up? It’s not like people are going to suddenly discover Magical DeKalb County, with its stellar schools and great graduation rates, and want to move here with things as they are. New development = more jobs = better schools. Before, when DCSS contemplated selling this property, outcries were heard about the amount being too low, the traffic problems being unsolvable, etc. If only! You can’t always wait for things “to get better”, assuming that they will. In these times, they often get worse. And, just seeing that some Board members are against this idea should give everyone pause: what are their REAL interests, and why would they rather overcrowd classrooms and fire teachers than take in several million dollars?

  5. Ned says:

    We also need to factor in that DCSS has a LOT of unused buildings and land. If we can get between $10 and $15 million for one parcel at a time when we are way over our heads in debt we may need to think about not hoping the price will go back up to real-estate bubble prices anytime before the next transit of Venus across the sun

  6. September says:

    I say sell it. Yes, it will be for significantly less money than the last offer, but waiting another 5 to 10 years for the value to go up is not realistic based on the school system’s current financial situation. It would be better to sell it to an interested buyer now than to have it languish on the market while we try to get a better price. The property is deteriorating. We are paying for insurance and upkeep. It is going unused. That said, if the property is sold, the money should be put into the budget to lower the current deficit. The money should not be used to fund new programs or extras.

  7. justwatch says:

    Do you think the VA would be a tenant or a building owner? For tax purposes,it is much better if the VA is a tenant, then we can tax the value of the building not just the land.

  8. justwatch says:

    Mixed used development is almost impossible to finance now. That is the challenge. And the neighborhoods around there don’t want mixed used — they made it very clear last time. This could be a win, win, especially if the VA is just a tenant, as someone else indicated might be the possibility.

  9. bu2 says:

    Yes. Selling at the bottom of the market is not a good idea. This is potentially a gem. It should have been sold several years ago, but now we should wait.

    Womack doesn’t seem to understand his job. Dekalb County determines what’s appropriate for development. He only needs to worry about getting appropriate value and whether its needed for a school in the future.

  10. bu2 says:

    (in the AJC article Womack was talking about not selling partly because it might trigger more development in the area).

  11. PublicSchoolDad says:

    VA does not normally purchase or develop its own property due to GSA funding limitations. GSA’s budget is appropriated annually so the VA is typically forced to enter into lease agreements that renew annually. From a lender’s perspective (or resident’s perspective) there are a whole host of concerns over GSA’s ability to walk away from the lease at will (what does the owner do with the property then?), but its safe to assume that the VA will not own the building or land.

  12. PublicSchoolDad says:

    Just think… $12mm would go a long way to supporting the FSC budget for a couple more years…

  13. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Yes, and as far as we can tell, they only want part of the land. That leaves more acreage to be developed for support medical facilities and restaurants, etc. There is definitely income-producing potential here. Not to mention that a project like this would clean up the blight caused by the empty school buildings. (See our photo essay at the link below.)

  14. They should also look at selling the eyesore at Chamblee-Dunwoody, Peeler and N. Shallowford. The old Chamblee Middle School property is looking awfully ragged and at that intersection, it could bring good dollars too.

  15. justwatch says:

    Most of DeKalb’s vacant (and really otherwise) properties are in areas where the land has no value. They are often in residential areas that have zero potential for redevelopment anytime in the near future. Who is going to buy the old Hooper Alexander, the old schools in the McNair cluster, etc. The best we can hope for is a charter school to use them and pay the utilities. Next best scenario is to give them to DeKalb County to be used as green space, but there will be no dollars in exchange.

  16. justwatch says:

    We have ZERO DOLLARS in reserve. If we sell, that money must go into the reserves for the inevitable rainy day expenses that will happen.

  17. justwatch says:

    My understanding is that property is zone R100 and given what is happening in the single family home development right now, has very little value. The biggest piece of valuable property the system has are those parcels on N. Druid Hills Road, which can be commercial.

  18. Ned says:

    I assume that’s snark?

  19. The Deal says:

    Sell, sell, sell. Property values will never rise as long as our schools are in the tank. That improvement is years off, if ever. Get rid of the land so that we taxpayers can stop paying the property tax, and give DCSD one less thing to manage.

  20. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    We don’t pay property tax on the shuttered properties, but we do pay for maintenance, insurance, etc. Plus, these properties create eyesores for communities and bring down the area property values (bringing down taxes). A fresh new medical center would be a good thing for the county and the community. And the school system really needs the money. I mean really, it’s like a broke family who refuses to sell the old Ford in the garage because it might be worth more one day… while they starve and get evicted.

    Interestingly, we are making money off the Druid Hills property as a tv series is (still?) being shot there. Some Teen Wolf show… thus the fake name change on the front of the school.

  21. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Also, as far as Paul Womack goes, he still wants to resurrect the old “Briarcliff High”. He personally told me that he would like to move Druid Hills HS here and sell the Druid Hills building. Huh? Really… this is what is going on in the back of his mind when he makes comments like those in the AJC article above.


    The link above will take you to a Ty Tygami article about the appeals court hearing for the teachers suit against DCSS, regarding the retirement accounts of teachers that have not been funded. 2 or 3 years Clew and Tyson decided to balance the budget, by not funding the DCSS promised share to teachers, unless DCSS gave them a two year warning. They didn’t and are now being sued. The inept palace staffs of Clew and Tyson will continue to haunt US and I fear it will cost US more over the next few years. Why is Ms. Tyson still working for DCSS[question mark]

    Gov. Roy Barnes, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the school system was “trying to split hairs” with the definition of a contract. You think Roy…. Indeed, this one is going to cost the taxpayers dearly if DCSS loses, Ty says tens of millions of dollars.

    Good luck teachers, you deserve to be told the truth and respected by your employer. Too bad your current leaders are too busy giving themselves raises. Hey Ron Ramsey, I think you might have advised a bit wrongly here. I think you need to resign. A good decent man, with the job of DCSS legal counsel, should have told his bosses that teachers deserve to be treated fairly and should follow the letter of the contract that DCSS signed with their teachers. Not funding the retirement account could cause problems down the road. Oh that’s right, you must have been at the Gold Dome working your other job at the time. I fear we’ll be paying for the Epic mistakes made by DCSS for years to come!

  23. wiserthanmyself says:

    DCSS could build on the current TV series being shot, and use many of these closed schools to start a “Hollywood of the South”–back lots where producers could build the backdrops they want, labor is plentiful, skilled, and cheap (i.e., no unions), and weather mostly sunny. Plenty of gorgeous old houses to film–and Georgia is already making it easier for the movie industry with tax breaks. DeKalb could be a leader in this initiative, and get lots of $$ in the bargain. (Finally, Philandrea could heed her calling…) But, seriously…

  24. wiserthanmyself says:

    I didn’t like Ty’s phrasing of the potential settlement as “costing taxpayers money”, though. Social security also “costs taxpayers money”, yet only the most Tea-party-ish among us would really end it without a substitute. We teachers lost a huge amount of money when the Board took away the TSA without giving anything in return: if we taught in Cobb County, say, we’d have Social Security as well as the TSA (retirement system), and many of us would have our own retirement accounts (503b’s) as well. This was part of a condition of employment for many teachers, and it hurts the younger people more, because the loss of accrued interest is huge.

  25. TeachDekalb says:

    By the way, take a look at the new AJC article about Dekalb being sued for not paying teachers’ supplemental retirement funds. I hate to say that I hope Dekalb loses this one. These teachers need their funds.

  26. TeachDekalb says:

    Ha! Sorry, I didn’t see that the article was already discussed above. Silly me!

  27. justwatch says:

    Can someone tell me if it is even legal for DCSS not to be paying into social security? Does the state teachers retirement system negate the need for DCSS to pay into social security?

  28. bu2 says:

    We shouldn’t give anything away. But the ones with limited long range potential should be moved now, if possible. If not possible, while Dekalb Co has budget problems too, at some point they may want park space and will pay for it. And there could be other uses. Isn’t Hooper Alexander near Avondale? Or am I thinking of another closed school? I would think there would be uses for any land in that area.

  29. bu2 says:

    DCSS would be late to the game. It seems there are movies filmed nearly every month somewhere along Ponce de Leon.

  30. bu2 says:

    DHHS is the oldest school in the district and is on a tight piece of land. There may be some merit in that. But I think the DHHS population is mostly much further south than that property.

  31. bu2 says:

    Its legal. Government entities have different obligations than private.

  32. I agree, the property is in a great location and the expansion of the medical facilities in the area would be a nice development plan to complement the nearby Emory area. Think of the medical community around Northside Hospital. And, that could also mean more jobs like the ones that are keeping the Fernbank folks employed in the down economy. We have to be realistic… if people will not want to move here for the education, then maybe they will if they are sick. Wow, that’s sad when you think of it that way.

  33. Hard to believe how Womack completely undervalued the property in the cell tower contracts – and now he thinks we can do better with our old, beaten down vacant ones. Go figure. The cell companies have more money than God and no other way to get right into the heart of the residential areas – we should have received major money for what was accepted, esp. considering T-mobile would be getting out of their fair share of taxes. Ugh! So frustrating!!

  34. Wondering says:

    DeKalb needs to seriously considering selling this parcel of land, as well as any others they can sell. This money will come in handy when they are required to make amends for the callous and illegal decision to eliminate their contribution to the TSA. This action was against their agreement when Social Security was replaced by TSA. When their actions were recognized as inappropriate, they changed their own policy. It is actions like this as well as other underhanded decisions that are mainly to blame for the dire straits of the school system.
    It should be noted that most school systems in Georgia either pay into Social Security or have an additional supplemental retirement benefit for their teachers. Gwinnet has withdrawn from Social Security, but they provide a supplemental benefit apart from the retirement plan. The city of Atlanta Schools is the exception. However, they compensate their teachers at a higher salary rate. This higher salary increases their actual retirement benefit.
    DeKalb is now the only major school district that offers no additional retirement or supplemental retirement benefit to its teachers. New hires are made aware of their current benefits and can make a decision whether to accept this plan. Those of us hired prior to the last three years were never given the opportunity to decide anything. The board reneged on their agreement, and ripped the benefit away from teachers. Shame on you DeKalb. This is not the first time nor the last time that this school system has made wrong decisions that have negatively affected many.
    Benefits information:

  35. educator90 says:

    Younger teachers are already hurt under the way the board used to give the for retirement in lieu of SS, as we had to work for the district for 3 years before we could begin receiving it. I am not sure if that is legal, but it sure is shady.

  36. dekalbite2 says:

    In the 1970s certain groups among them teachers were allowed to opt out of Social Security (no longer can do that today). We (DeKalb teachers) voted in 1978 to opt out of Social Security while at the same time the Board committed to funding a Tax Sheltered Annuity for us at the same percentage that they were paying for Social Security. This was a good deal for the school system since when Social Security contribution percentages went up, the school system’s contribution remained the same as it was in 1978.

    Lewis and then Tyson eliminated the Board TSA to balance the budget. There are some more complex problems for teachers with the suspension of the TSA, but that the TSA was in lieu of Social Security is the basis of the lawsuit.

  37. dekalbmom says:

    What are you guys smoking? This is the one incredibly valuable asset DCSS owns! It should never be sold for pennies in the worst real estate market in years. They should either hold it until the market improves or better yet, keep it for a state of the art high school/middle school complex. The intown schools are overcrowded and this is where the growth is. There is already a stadium and field which cannot be replaced anywhere in the intown area.

    But I agree that DCSS should unload the other empty, run down properties it has, even if they unload them at firesale prices.

  38. anothercomment says:

    That is false, the VA gets its own Construction and Building and Facilities Line Item appropriation, just like the CDC. The VA have their own Facilities and Construction Management Staff, just as CDC does. Hospitals and Laboratories are complex design and construction projects therefore GSA does not handle them. The Justice Department also builds the Federal Courthouse themselves. GSA only handles office and warehouse space. It tries to stick its finger in other things.

    Even on GSA leases they are 5 year leases with 5 year renewal terms. The Federal Government is one of the safer tenants to have. The VA with all of the newly injured Vets from IRAQ and Afghanistan would be one of the safest tenants.

  39. justwatch says:

    So governmental entities can do nothing for retirement? Or does the fact that the state has a retirement system (that hasn’t gone away) allow DeKalb to do nothing?

  40. justwatch says:

    Also, what is happening with disability insurance for our teachers? (That is actually an important part of social security.) Does the system provide that?

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