BOONE — In Watauga Superior Court on Oct. 29, Superior Court Judge Susan Bray denied an Oct. 10 motion for a preliminary injunction that would’ve kept the Watauga County Board of Education from purchasing property for a new Valle Crucis School.
The lawsuit was filed against the board and each of its members in their professional capacities by Deschamps Holdings LLC, Deschamps Enterprises LLC, The Mast Farm Inn, Henri Deschamps, Marie-Henriette Deschamps and Danielle Deschamps. The Deschamps are the owners of The Mast Farm Inn on Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis — which is adjacent to the 14.4-acre tract of land that the school board has had under contract for the purpose of a new Valle Crucis School.
“We were disappointed in the results, but the litigation to prevent the school board from making an unwise decision will continue,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert Hunter of the Higgins Benjamin law firm in Greensboro.
Chris Campbell, of Campbell Shatley law firm based in Asheville, represented the school board at the Oct. 29 hearing. He said that the board’s legal position at the hearing was that the North Carolina General Assembly has given school boards the authority to determine the suitability of school property, and that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring legal action against the school board. Additionally, the board believes that it has “conducted significant due diligence in making a careful decision about the property,” Campbell said.
He added that the possible impact of locating a school adjacent to a local business is “speculative” and is not a legal issue for the courts.
The Mast Farm Inn stated that while it is disappointed that the court did not enjoin the school board from pursuing the "troublesome site" for the school, it looks forward to presenting a case to a jury.
"Hopefully the school board will reach the right conclusion and not spend over a million dollars on this flood plain property," the Mast Farm Inn said in a statement. "If not, we will continue to press forward to protect The Mast Farm Inn, the Valle Crucis Historic District and our community.”
The board’s contract on the tract of land — which has been referred to as the Hodges property — includes a due diligence period through Nov. 15. The 150-day due diligence period has included steps such as septic/soil scientist evaluation, land surveys, an environmental assessment, an archaeological assessment, wetland evaluation, conceptual layout plans and well drilling.
Campbell said the board is continuing with its due diligence to determine if the Hodges property is suitable for a new Valle Crucis School.
“The lawsuit does not affect the board’s focus on determining the feasibility of the property for a new school,” Campbell said.
As Bray has not filed her final order, Campbell declined to comment further on the matter. Hunter also stated he did not to want to comment publicly about pending cases. Hunter added that he had no comment on the issue of any likelihood of an appeal to Bray’s decision.
“In my view, we have 30 days in which to appeal the order or we can wait until the entire case is over,” Hunter said.
At the Oct. 22 public meeting about the potential placement of a new school, Watauga Board of Education Chair Ron Henries stated that the board would revisit the issue of the property at its Nov. 4 meeting. This meeting has been rescheduled for Nov. 7.