Glendive Schools hoping to get land for teacherage
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Glendive Public Schools is still waiting and hoping to secure land on which to build a teacherage.
The Dawson County Commissioners voted Tuesday night on the school district’s request for Newport Square in Prospect Heights, but the muddled nature of the vote and preceding discussion left school officials unsure of where they stand.
“I still don’t have a definitive answer,” Superintendent Ross Farber said following the commissioners’ vote. “I’m kind of waiting, I guess.”
Commissioners Adam Gartner and Doug Buxbaum voted to lease or sell Newport Square to the school system at a reduced rate, but contingent on getting further opinion from County Attorney Olivia Norlin-Rieger on whether the school district’s plan to lease housing units to teachers at a reduced rate qualifies as low-income housing. Commissioner Jim Skillestad was not present.
According to an opinion issued by Norlin-Rieger last week, the county has the option of selling the property to the school district at a reduced price or simply donating it to them so long as the property was permanently used to provide low-income housing.
Nevertheless, commissioners got bogged down in discussion of whether the district’s plans for housing teachers would count as low-income housing.
“My own personal opinion is to give it to them, to donate it to them, but I’m nervous about low-income housing,” Gartner said.
“That one seems to be kind of a stickler,” added Buxbaum.
Farber said it “would have been a nice gesture” if the commissioners had agreed to donate the property based on Norlin-Rieger’s written opinion, though he added that the school district would be fine with leasing the property at a reduced rate, especially given the time constraints the district is facing on the issue.
Given that and the lack of a conclusive decision on Newport Square, Farber said the district would continue to look at other options.
“(Newport Square) is still there and it’s a viable option, but you’ve got to keep looking at other things to do,” he said.
Even if the school district were able to secure the Newport Square property, however, they would have a final hurdle to clear.
The property is currently zoned as R-1 for single family housing. The school district would have to go to the City/County Planning Board to request the property be rezoned as R-3 for multi-family housing.
Farber doesn’t believe that will be a big issue, however, telling commissioners he had already spoken with Mayor Jerry Jimison about it and that getting the property rezoned is “not as difficult as it may seem on the surface of it.”
“I don’t foresee any immense protest, but you never know what the neighbors think,” Jimison said of the school district’s plans for Newport Square.
Farber has repeatedly pointed to a lack of affordable and acceptable housing as a hindrance to bringing new teachers into local schools.
The school district is currently facing the prospect of finding at least a dozen new teachers for the next school year.
Reach Jason Stuart at email@example.com.