By Nathan Ham
Judge Susan Bray denied a preliminary injunction by the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Watauga County School Board that would have stopped the land purchase for the property that the county is eying for the construction of a brand new Valle Crucis School.
The plaintiffs in the case, listed as the Mast Farm Inn, Deschamps Holdings LLC, Deschamps Enterprises, Henri Deschamps, Marie-Henriette Deschamps and Danielle Deschamps, filed a lawsuit on October 10 against the Watauga County Board of Education, board chairman Ron Henries, vice-chair Brenda Reese, and board members Dr. Gary Childers, Steve Combs and Dr. Jay Fenwick with the hope of forcing the county to abandon its plan of construction a new, much-needed school on a 14.4-acre plot of land known as the Hodges Property. The county has the plot of land under contract, however the plaintiffs feel that the land is not the most suitable place for construction of a new school, citing environmental concerns having the school in a flood-prone area, the purchase price of the property, the appraisal used to define the property’s value and the protection of the Valle Crucis Historical District.
“While we are disappointed the court did enjoin the school board from pursuing this troublesome site for the new Valle Crucis School, we look forward to presenting our case to a jury, including the overpayment for this property. Hopefully, the school board will reach the right conclusion and not spend over a million dollars on this flood plain property. If not, we will continue to press forward to protect The Mast Farm Inn, The Valle Crucis Historic District, and our community,” the Mast Farm Inn plaintiffs said in a statement.
Chris Campbell, the attorney representing the Watauga County Board of Education, issued a statement saying that this ruling confirms that the court will not stop the county from continuing to pursue this property for potential school construction.
“The Watauga County Board of Education’s legal position at the hearing was that the General Assembly has given school boards the authority to determine the suitability of school property, that the Plaintiffs did not have standing to bring a legal action against the School Board, and that the Board has conducted significant due diligence in making a careful decision about the property. Furthermore, the possible impact of locating a school adjacent to a local business is speculative and not a legal issue for the courts,” said Campbell. “The Board of Education’s current contract includes a due diligence period through November 15. The School Board is continuing with its due diligence to determine if the Hodges property is suitable for a new Valle Crucis Elementary School. The lawsuit does not affect the Board’s focus on determining the feasibility of the property for a new school.”
Campbell declined to comment any further since Judge Bray had not entered a final written order.
Watauga County Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said that 30 days following the due diligence period ending next Friday, a closing date for the purchase of the property could take place.