Land prices start low -- then soar 

COLUMBIA, 12/4/11  (Beat Byte) --  Bait-and-switch schemes will pay off handsomely for principals of St. Charles Road Development (SCRD) in 2011, with the sale of land for a new elementary school and a new city park near Battle High. 

Here's how the schemes worked.  

SCRD -- partners Bob Pugh, Tom Atkins, Scott Atkins, Rob, Wolverton and the Bob Lemone Trust -- "came to the rescue" with land for Battle High in 2007.  

Several competing parcels -- including the famous "Vemer tract" -- had created an explosive controversy.   

Calling it part "gift" and part "sale," the group played up a "discount" they said Columbia Public Schools would get:  79 acres for $900,000, or $11,400/acre.   

District officials later found themselves on the hook for $2.9 million in infrastructure costs -- sewer, water, lights, sidewalks, streets -- some of which will serve SCRD, which has a residential subdivision planned near the new schools and proposed park. 

Fast forward 4 years, when Pugh, Atkins and partners announced yet another sale to Columbia Public Schools for a new elementary school -- 32 acres in the same area, but this time for $1.5 million, or about $50,000/acre.  

This month, the development team is back again, offering 30 acres to the City of Columbia in the area for a park.   The price for this acreage:  $681,000, or $23,000/acre.     

Though the first land sale came at a discount, subsequent land sales drove up the average price to $21,000/acre for 141 acres. 

Too bad district officials didn't demand discounts across the board, especially given the bulk quantity of land purchased.