Fact check: Is the Princeton school board is in discussions with the municipality about school district land at Valley Road?

The Princeton Board of Education is not in discussions with the municipality about selling or swapping the school district’s Valley Road property. In comments at a public meeting about long term planning in the school district Saturday, an official was referring to being in touch with the municipality about the zoning for the Valley Road property, not about selling or trading the property, according to district officials.

School Board President Dafna Kendal said on Monday that school district officials have not had any discussions with the municipality or developers about selling the Valley Road property. The district’s administrative offices are located on the property, and the older portion of the building has not been in use for several years.

“We are not in any discussions with any outside parties about Valley Road. We are talking about tearing down the old portion of the building because as fiduciaries we are concerned that it is an attractive nuisance,” Kendal said. “We are looking at tearing the building down. That is the extent of the discussions, and these discussions are internal.”

Kendal noted that the district would not be looking at demolishing the old portion of the Valley Road building if selling the property was the goal. In that scenario, the school board would expect the buyer to demolish the building on the property.

Kendal said the district has not been approached by town officials or developers regarding the land. The issue of what to do with the old portion of the Valley Road building has come up repeatedly in school board discussions over more than a decade. The last time the school board considered tearing down the old portion of the building was in 2018. The cost would have been $1 million at the time.

The Valley Road property land issue is tied to rumors that the town allegedly is trying to buy Westminster Choir College and swap the college property for the entire Valley Road property. This would enable the town to use the Valley Road property for its purposes and possibly consolidate other municipal properties. The school district would then get the Westminster Choir College property without having to ask the voters to approve a bond referendum to buy the property. The town, unlike the school district, does not need voter approval to borrow money.

Kendal said there have been no discussions with the municipality about the Westminster property.

“I’m not saying we wouldn’t be open to it, but there haven’t been any discussions with them. They haven’t approached us,” Kendal said.

Two lawsuits about the ownership and stewardship of the Westminster property are still pending. Bruce Afran, the lawyer representing a group of Westminster alumni and students, has said no one can sell the property because of his group’s lawsuit, which could take another five years to resolve.