Branching out, landscape center seeks strip of school district land

Published Oct 10, 2017 at 4:10pm

R. Jones Nursery & Landscape Center wants to buy a strip of Rome school district land behind Ridge Mills Elementary School, for use as a service road between its current North Madison Street property and a new location being built on Rome-Westernville Road.

The proposal, geared to enhance traffic flow and involving an approximately 40-by-360-foot area that is beyond the Ridge Mills school’s playground area, was addressed this morning by the Board of Education’s buildings and grounds committee.

A possible purchase price has not been discussed, said district Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Paul Rabbia, who was contacted by the business about the proposal.

The school district will review the matter further, including checking various state legal requirements involved in a potential sale of district land. Approval by district voters in a public referendum would be needed, said district Superintendent Peter C. Blake. Board Vice President Paul Hagerty, who chairs the buildings and grounds committee, questioned whether there also may be some bidding requirements.

Blake cited “another well over-thought regulation that schools have to deal with.” He later added the proposed land transaction “makes sense for him,” referring to the Jones business, and “makes sense for us.” The school district would “probably not do anything with that property” otherwise, he noted.

The district overall owns an approximately 180-by-360-foot section to the west of a fence that is on the edge of the Ridge Mills school’s playground area, Rabbia said. The proposed purchase by the Jones business would involve part of that land, he added.

Peter Jones, who with his wife Rebecca Jones owns R. Jones Nursery & Landscape Center, said today he is seeking the land for an internal usage service road that would relieve congestion by the Rome-Westernville Road entrance for the new location. It would enable tractor trailers making deliveries plus trucks used by his business to have access to the site through the 2041 N. Madison St. location, he explained.

Otherwise, state restrictions on the width of the Rome-Westernville Road entrance for the new location could lead to some traffic congestion such as when tractor trailers would be arriving, Jones observed.

A service road also would enhance overall safety by reducing traffic near the parking lot for customers, he added.

Future use of the nursery & landscape center’s North Madison Street property after the expansion is completed “all hinges on this,” Jones said of the purchase offer to the school district for the nearby land.

Jones said he has not discussed a possible purchase price at this point. The land that he seeks is currently mostly brush and deadwood along with a few trees, plus it largely is a “landlocked area” based on surrounding properties, he added.

The expanded R. Jones Nursery & Landscape Center, which is just north of Ridge Mills school and an adjacent separate medical office on Rome-Westernville Road, is expected to open next spring. It is to support a commercial retail plant nursery and equipment related to offsite landscaping services.