School Board makes land swap official

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Education: Potential legal issues prompted the move

By Tris DeRoma

Recently, the Los Alamos Public School Board of Education made a land swap between the county and the district official.

The board officially passed a resolution finalizing the swap Sept. 11. Three years ago, when Diamond Drive was being renovated, the county and LAPS decided to do a land swap that they would both benefit from.

LAPS needed a section of land near Diamond Drive and Canyon Road that would allow them to expand and renovate Mesa Field, and the county needed a section of land near Orange and Diamond Drive to install a right-of-way.

“The county’s bus stop was on school land, our retaining wall (Mesa Field) was on county land, and all we wanted to do was remedy that,” LAPS Assets Manager Joan Ahlers said.

One of the district’s primary motivations for the swap was that land ownership issues were clashing with the school’s policies designed to protect students.

“The county didn’t want to be responsible for our retaining wall, and quite frankly, the school had some issues with a public bus stop being on school land,” Ahlers said. “For example, we have school policies that say convicted sex offenders, when on school property, have to have an escort. So when somebody gets off the bus and they are a sex offender, even if they are on the other side of the fence they are technically still on school property.”

The same went for alcohol possession too, added Ahlers.

The resolution states that LAPS agrees to give the county 3,396 square feet of land for the right-of-way and in exchange, the county would give LAPS a 2,543 square feet piece of land, which allowed the school to expand and renovate Mesa Field.

At the school board meeting, President Kevin Honnell questioned the value of the deal.

“We’re giving away 34 percent more land than we’re getting; why weren’t the lot lines adjusted to keep parity with the value of the land being exchanged?”

Ahlers explained that land meant for a right-of-way hardly has any value since its use is already determined. However, the land that LAPS is getting is more flexible when it comes to commercial use.

“We’re giving up land that is really worth $6,000 plus and we are getting in exchange almost $21,000 worth of land,” said Ahlers at the meeting. “Because our land is not considered right-of-way, in theory, we can build on it if we wanted to, but the county is unable to do that because of the bus stop.”

With that, the board voted unanimously to approve the swap.