The Wake County Public School System has dropped plans to build a new elementary school that Raleigh leaders opposed because of its location in Falls Lake's environmentally sensitive watershed.
The Wake school board voted last month to terminate a contract it had approved in January to pay $2.47 million for 30 acres at the northwest corner of the intersection of Creedmoor and Shooting Club roads, north of Raleigh.
School officials said they dropped the site because of watershed concerns.
"It made sense not to build out there if the city doesn't want it there," said school board member Ron Margiotta, who had opposed the initial decision to buy the land.
School officials are looking for alternative sites in the northwest Raleigh area.
Raleigh officials cheered the decision to scrap the location. They had notified Wake County Manager David Cooke about their opposition to building a school on that site in the watershed.
The school board walked away from the deal before presenting the contract to Wake County commissioners for approval.
"We're happy that they did abandon that site," said Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen. "We didn't feel it was in the best interests of our water customers or in the best interests of the Falls Lake watershed. Certainly we understand their need for new schools."
The site drains into Upper Barton Creek about a mile from Falls Lake, which supplies drinking water to Raleigh and other Wake towns. The proposed school likely would have used private water and a septic system because of its location in the watershed, where municipal water and sewer lines typically are prohibited.
Although school leaders have said that it's tough finding land in that area for new schools, city officials were more concerned about how the proposed site would have affected the watershed.
Allen noted that Raleigh had to extend sewer service to Brassfield and Pleasant Union elementary schools, Wake's only two schools in the watershed, after both of them experienced severe septic system problems in the 1990s. He said city officials were skeptical that the private system that Wake would have used for the Shooting Club Road site would have lasted over time.
The decision to look for an alternative site likely won't put the new school behind its schedule, which already was uncertain.
The money would come from future school bonds or some other funding method. Because of the national economic recession, plans for Wake's next school-bond issue are on hold.
Although Margiotta said he didn't like the Shooting Club Road site, he said city and county leaders need to either further restrict development in the watershed or make it easier to build schools there to keep up with growth.
"The city and county need to address the issue," Margiotta said. "It's not fair to tell the people who are living out there that they have to go a long way to get to school."