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Chestnut Mountain property no longer in contention for Lanier Tech relocation
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One site considered for the planned relocation of Lanier Technical College appears to no longer be on the table.

Doug Magnus, president and founder of Conditioned Air Systems Inc. in Gainesville, told The Times on Monday that his deadline for the state to accept his land offer has passed without a word from officials.

“I felt like 90 days was long enough,” he said. “It sort of disappoints me, in a way.”

Officials with the school have said the current facilities are outdated and rebuilding at the Oakwood location is unrealistic.

Magnus had offered land that includes 121 acres near Winder Highway east of Interstate 985 in the Chestnut Mountain area.

Magnus said he purchased the land for $2.5 million about 10 years ago, and offered it to Lanier Tech in hopes the school would stay close to its current location. 

“For them to even consider moving it somewhere else is a disgrace,” he said.

Magnus owns several properties and is currently developing the Retreat at Chestnut Mountain, a gated subdivision with 62 lots.

He said he understands that his gift might help raise property values for his land.

Magnus argues, however, that his intention is to fight the loss of institutions to North Hall, which has already enticed the state poultry lab away, for example. 

“I had hoped that this offer would at least keep (Lanier Tech) in the south end of the county,” he said.

But access to Magnus’ tract was too problematic, said Philip Wilheit, chairman of the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority who spearheaded the initial land search with representatives from the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Lanier Tech.

“What the governor wanted was something with immediate visibility and immediate accessibility to I-985 or Ga. 365,” he said. “I’m encouraging them to think of another charity that can benefit from that because it was a wonderful gesture on their part, but unfortunately it didn’t meet the criteria …”

Magnus said he believes the state should accept his offer and spend its money on securing access and entrance points.

The search for land to relocate Lanier Tech is now in the hands of state officials.

Two locations, each with access to major thoroughfares such as Interstate 985 and Ga. 365, scored best on evaluations by a local committee, which then submitted its findings to the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.

While 16 sites were ultimately submitted for consideration, 10 were essentially disqualified because they did not meet specific needs for the new campus.

Cost is a critical factor in the choice, but proximity is just as important, according to those involved in the search. So, too, is the fact that Lanier Tech wants to keep its distance from other technical colleges in neighboring counties.

Other criteria included availability of buildable acreage, utilities and infrastructure, compatibility with surrounding land uses and proximity to businesses and area high schools.

Lanier Tech President Ray Perren has said he would like to acquire between 65 and 75 acres for a new campus to open by fall 2018.

The 2016 fiscal year state budget approved in April includes $10 million in bonds and $865,000 in general funds to purchase property and design a new campus for the school in Hall County.

Gov. Nathan Deal is chairman of the State Properties Commission, which must sign off on any deal.

A top location graded by the local committee is a 76-acre tract near the Mundy Mill subdivision, with a proposed entrance off Millside Parkway.

Wilheit has also confirmed that a 145-acre property near the RaceTrac gas station and convenience store close to exit 24 on I-985 in North Hall is one of the sites also being considered.

“I always felt like they had really made the decision before I offered this land,” Magnus said. “It was always rumored that it was going up there.”

Wilheit said negotiations are ongoing, and two or three properties remain in contention.

“I understand that it’s moving along,” he said.

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