Josh Chandler, a local lawyer, has filed a lawsuit against Idaho Falls School District 91, the district’s Board of Trustees and Rockwell Homes. The lawsuit claims a land swap between the school district and the developer was illegal.
Chandler is one of several people living near Taylorview Middle School who oppose a planned Rockwell residential development in the area.
Rockwell plans to build a 53-home subdivision, on a vacant lot west of Taylorview, at the corner of Castlerock Lane and Stonebrook Lane.
Neighbors voiced their concerns about the development — traffic safety, property values, school overcrowding and obstructed views, among other things — at an Idaho Falls Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday.
District 91 owned the 25-acre property and traded it to Rockwell Homes for a 13.7-acre property, plus $263,000 in cash, according to District 91 Superintendent George Boland.
The land was appraised at $497,000. District 91’s Board of Trustees approved the deal in January.
The lawsuit claims the land deal violated Idaho Statute 33-601 — which sets guidelines for school districts’ property transactions — because District 91 did not hold a public hearing or bid the property.
Additionally, the lawsuit says the deal does not qualify as a land swap because Rockwell paid cash for more than half of the land’s value.
Chandler, who practiced federal procurement law in Washington D.C. before moving to Idaho Falls, said he hopes the lawsuit will stop the school district from making another land deal without giving public notice.
“I got interested in (the development) because this is near my home,” Chandler told the Post Register. “What really got me upset was that this piece of property, which is a prime piece of property in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Idaho Falls, was not auctioned off. Statute aside, they should be trying to get the best price for a piece of public property.”
The school district consulted legal counsel and determined the deal was legal, Boland said.
“Anytime we do any kind of land acquisition or disposition, we make sure we engage legal counsel and do those transactions as per their guidance and Idaho code,” Boland said.