A 44-acre assemblage on Coalfield Road appears to be in the running as a potential site for a new Midlothian Middle School in Chesterfield.
But the recent resignation of a Chesterfield supervisor has thrown that plan into flux, according to an owner of one of the larger parcels in the assemblage the county would buy if the deal were to go through.
“At the moment, I think the best characterization of where things are with the county is in limbo. We had a deal almost worked out,” said Joe Beauchamp. He and his wife Janet Lachowsky own the 6-acre parcel where the Spiritos School for children with autism is situated on Coalfield Road.
The site in question is a collection of 13 parcels controlled by 12 property owners. Some are residential properties, while others are occupied by businesses, such as the Spiritos School, which is at 400 Coalfield Road and is owned by Beauchamp and Lachowsky.
The assemblage has a total value of about $3 million, per online county records.
Beauchamp said conversations about a sale had been underway for several years. Both sides had exchanged offers and counter offers and a deal seemed on the cusp of a successful conclusion until the summer. In June, Supervisor Leslie Haley, who represented the Midlothian district and who Beauchamp said helped facilitate the conversations about a sale, left her county post.
“That deal was pretty close to being consummated and we were negotiating on the papers and dates and stuff and Leslie Haley abruptly resigned and went to work for the Attorney General,” he said. “That concerned me, but I figured ‘Well, Leslie has a handpicked successor: Tara Carroll. And Tara Carroll will pick up where Leslie left off.”
But that won’t happen.
Carroll, who was appointed the interim supervisor for Haley’s seat, lost the Chesterfield GOP’s party canvass in August to Jennifer McNinch, who will carry the Republican banner in the next week’s election to select someone to serve out Haley’s remaining term. Democrat Mark Miller is also running in that election.
Haley didn’t respond to phone messages seeking comment, nor did Carroll return a phone call seeking comment.
Beauchamp said the day after the canvass, a Chesterfield official told the landowners the county would put on hold further discussions about the deal until after the November election.
“We’re mostly resigned to the fact that more than likely we’re not going to get any activity on this until after the election,” Beauchamp said.
Beauchamp and his neighbors aren’t the only ones waiting for a new Midlothian supervisor to assume office. So too is Kathryn Haines, the Midlothian district’s School Board representative.
Haines said she was aware that the Coalfield site, among others, was being considered for a new Midlothian Middle School. Haines said the land acquisition of a site for the school is being handled by the county government rather than the school district. She also said during her mid-October interview it was her understanding there wouldn’t be any more movement on the county’s acquisition of a site until after the election.
“I am looking forward to meeting the new supervisor after the election to pick back up on this process,” Haines said.
Deputy County Administrator Jesse Smith declined to comment on what sites the county was considering as a place to build a replacement Midlothian Middle School in an interview last week.
Smith did say the county was considering multiple sites and that a board vote would be needed to approve the acquisition of whatever property the county staff decides to recommend be pursued. Since there will be a vote, Chesterfield doesn’t want to continue the project until a permanent Midlothian representative is on the board.
“We’ve looked at the area and there are a handful of sites,” Smith said. “As we move forward, it’s important the elected official of Midlothian is aware of where we are on that.”
Chesterfield doesn’t have a firm timeline on selecting a site for the future Midlothian Middle School and it could be six months before the process picks back up, Smith said.
The current Midlothian Middle School is at 13501 Midlothian Turnpike, which is a roughly three-minute drive from the Coalfield Road site. The site is within the village core area and sandwiched between Midlothian High School and JB Watkins Elementary School.
While Chesterfield’s acquisition of the Coalfield Road site is still up in the air, it would seem like a contender for a future school based on the county’s comprehensive plan.
The comprehensive plan calls for middle schools to be on sites of at least 40 acres. The Midlothian Community Special Area Plan states that a future Midlothian Middle School should be within or near the so-called village core of the plan and “ideally located off Midlothian Turnpike and within the vicinity of Midlothian High and Watkins Elementary.”
The special area plan is a component of the comprehensive plan, a long range land-use guide for future development.
Meanwhile, Beauchamp said he’s looking to make a real estate purchase of his own. Spiritos School, where his wife is the owner and CEO of the private school, has outgrown its current facilities. He said the stalled discussions have complicated the move to a larger property.
“I can’t pull the trigger on another site until I close on this site. I don’t have the kind of dough that would be required for me to buy an additional building until I sell this building,” he said.