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Lake Havasu Unified School district on the cusp on land swap decision

December 15, 2018

The decision has been more than a year coming. It is hoped that at its Tuesday board meeting, the Lake Havasu Unified School District can act on a land swap proposal.

The property in question is a skinny swath of vacant land on upper Swanson Avenue. The lot was a gift to the district in 2016 from Robert and Judith Bennett. It is 35 feet wide and 241 feet deep. It is across the street from the Hidden Palms housing complex.

As it stands, the school district owns the land and a developer wants it.

Mayer Akntarzad owns neighboring lots and needs the district’s property for a housing project. He has offered to swap a like-sized lot he owns a few yards away from the district’s slice, which happens to sit in the middle of his proposed project.

Realtor Amber Hoffman presented a preview of what developer Akntarzad had in mind for the housing project at the district’s Nov. 22 school board meeting. At five stories tall, it would have 18 units per floor, for a total of 90. The building would be carved into studios plus one-and two-bedroom units.

At the Nov. 22 meeting, school board member Nichole Cohen seemed in favor of the deal, but expressed reservations.

“We only have so much land for the district. How can we benefit from it?” she said of the land swap.

“Benefit” is the magic word. School Board President John Masden and other school officials feel the exchange aspect of the deal is all well and good, but the district should receive “compensation beyond the lot,” he said.

“We’re hammering out the details of the deal” with the district’s legal counsel, Masden said, noting that the issue has a chance of being presented for a vote at the next board meeting Dec. 18. “Our intention is to have this in front of the developer very soon. We have our draft done, so we’re keeping it on our agenda.”

School officials would like to create a bonus arrangement with developer Akntarzad that would provide housing options for district teachers. By attaching a memorandum of understanding to the land swap, a portion of the proposed housing units would be reserved for new teachers moving to Havasu to be employed by the school district. Rents continue to rise in Havasu. Being able to offer affordable housing to new teachers is a recruiting tool for the district.

A conventional sale of the property is out of the question, Masden noted. Because the slender lot is valued at $50,000, the sale of the land by state law must be presented for approval to the district’s voters. The cost of an election is at least $80,000.

The time, trouble and expense to the district isn’t a sound financial move, he said.

School officials spent more than an hour in executive session prior to its scheduled work session Dec. 11, purportedly to consult with legal counsel on the land swap details.

The upcoming Tuesday school board meeting is at 6 p.m. at the district’s office, 2200 Havasupai Blvd.

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