'Landlocked': York Tech authority buys land for future expansion

The York County School of Technology Authority approved a $12 million construction project Thursday evening.

With a nod from its 14 member school districts, York Tech recently purchased 59 acres to accommodate future expansion.

The York County School of Technology Authority — the entity that owns and maintains the vocational school's infrastructure — purchased the land immediately to the south and southeast of the campus for $1.85 million.

York Tech is in a good position right now, said William Lytle, chairman of the school's joint operating committee (JOC). And with government support for more vocational and technical education programs, "we needed to prepare for the future," he added.

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That land purchase had to go through three different approvals: the authority's board; the JOC, which includes a representative from each of the member districts; and the member districts' school boards.

Expansion: The process of procuring the land started in January, Lytle said.

The JOC had been interested in the land for possible expansion because "we're currently landlocked," York Tech business manager Jon Boyer said.

Within the past six years, he explained, development near the school has limited the school's options, meaning the committee needed to think ahead if it wanted to expand later.

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Another developer already had an eye on the recently purchased land for housing, but the township denied zoning approval for that project, he said.

"We kind of realized that if we wanted to protect our interest long term, this would be the opportunity," Lytle said.

The committee already has one expansion in mind — a new gym.

"It's not just about basketball," Lytle said, noting that the school is in need of a place it can host the entire student body and faculty at the same time.

It will be attached to the school, but stormwater management will likely stretch onto the new property.

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Cost: The school used part of a $12 million bond issue approved last year to purchase the land.

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Member districts formerly owed an outstanding debt of $42.9 million to the authority from a major renovation to the school that began in 2003.

The school refinanced bonds in 2007 and again in 2017, the second time wrapping in the new bond to save money on fees, Boyer explained.

"We were all very mindful of the taxpayers," Lytle said. "We’ve done our homework on it to make sure this is in the best interest of the school and the taxpayers."

The purchase of the new land was settled June 4, he said.

Boyer said the immediate focus will be on the gym, which is still in the design phase. Once the cost is assessed, the JOC can determine what remaining funds are available for other projects.

The committee hired an architectural firm — Lancaster-based Marotta/Main Architects — to explore building costs, which originally had been estimated at around $10 million before being raised to $11.8 million, according to May 31 JOC meeting minutes.

When asked what costs could be cut, the firm came back with a new estimate of $9.9 million, the minutes state.