Thursday, March 6, 2014
The evolution of plans for Coastal Montessori Charter School is still changing and growing.
In 2005, the University of South Carolina Development Foundation entered into a contract with the school to purchase approximately 110 acres on the west side of U.S. Highway 17 — adjacent to the exclusive Prince George River Community.
The acreage is part of a much larger piece of property — nearly 2,000 acres — acquired by the Prince George Development Group and USC's Development Foundation 20 years ago. The Development Group sought out a nonprofit to acquire the undeveloped tracts.
The USC Development Foundation kept 1,200 acres, which it planned to use for educational programs. The rest of the property was sold for residential development.
The agreement between Prince George developers and the USC Foundation limited the use of the 1,200 acres to education and conservation. The university once had plans for a Longleaf Environmental Learning Center on 10 acres. That plan was later reconsidered because of USC's very-active research and education facilities at the nearby Hobcaw Barony.
The charter school board thinks the limited use stipulations are in keeping with their intent to build an education facility that will utilize only 10 acres of the larger property. They have repeatedly agreed that the remainder of the property will be used for educational purposes — including cultural history and especially for environmental protection of any and all endangered flora or fauna, such as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Coastal Montessori Charter School plans a 25,000-square-foot facility and is seeking a $5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency for the project.
Some people believe the Prince George Community Association is using plans for the school as leverage to get the USC Development Foundation to limit development on its remaining property east of Highway 17.
Scott Eaton, representing Prince George Association, fears the USC Development Foundation will attempt to use the Montessori School as a precedent for selling their interest in their property on the east side of U.S. 17 to some unknown entity — perhaps a developer.
The board of the Coastal Montessori Charter School continues to move forward with its plans to build despite a legal threat from the Prince George Community Association. Coastal Montessori's Board asserts that the school's emphasis on the environment makes it a perfect fit for this piece of property — which was always intended to be reserved for educational purposes.
All three parties insist they are seeking an amicable resolution to the sticky situation.
At present, the school continues to operate in facilities located at Waccamaw Middle School. The publicly funded school opened in 2012. Their enrollment exceeds 160 students from first through sixth grades.
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