The search for land to relocate Lanier Technical College within Hall County is now in the hands of state officials, and it is hoped that final acquisition of property to build a new campus will occur no later than early 2016.
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.
Officials with the school have said the current facilities are outdated and rebuilding at the Oakwood location is unrealistic.
“There were two (locations) that really did rise to the top,” said Philip Wilheit, chairman of the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority who, along with representatives from the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Lanier Tech, led the search to identify and grade potential properties based on several criteria. “I really can’t say which two … because of land negotiations that would affect pricing.”
While 16 sites were ultimately submitted for consideration, 10 were essentially disqualified because they did not meet specific needs for the new campus, Wilheit said.
“It kind of ended my job at that point,” he added.
While cost is obviously a critical factor in the choice, 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.
“The local committee evaluated several potential sites for the new Hall County campus for Lanier Tech,” said Lanier Tech President Ray Perren. “Each site was evaluated using established criteria based on the needs of the college. Each site was thoroughly and fairly evaluated.”
Perren has said he would like to acquire between 65 and 75 acres for a new campus.
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.
TCSG Commissioner Gretchen Corbin will make the final determination on which property to select, according to spokeswoman Alison Tyrer.
“Once the decision is made, negotiations for acquisition must take place, and the final acquisition must be approved by TCSG’s state board and by the State Properties Commission,” she added.
Gov. Nathan Deal is chairman of the SPC.
The Times has confirmed the location of three of the six sites graded for consideration.
One site is land in the Chestnut Mountain area offered by Doug Magnus, president and founder of Conditioned Air Systems Inc. in Gainesville.
The land includes 121 acres near Winder Highway east of I-985. The property fronts Ponderosa Farm Road. Magnus owns several properties in that area, and is currently developing the Retreat at Chestnut Mountain, a gated subdivision with 62 lots.
Each piece of land being considered reveals an ongoing competition for business between the south and north end of the counties as new growth emerges.
Another location graded by the local committee is a 76-acre tract near the Mundy Mill subdivision, with a proposed entrance off Millside Parkway.
This land is close to the current Lanier Tech campus and is being offered for $7.3 million.
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.
Whichever site is chosen, Lanier Tech will have significant input on developing the campus to meet its needs going forward.
“I firmly believe that the project is on target and that the new campus will open in fall 2018,” Perren said.