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Former Sisters of Mercy convent for sale

The former Sisters of Mercy convent and the 133 acres it sits on in Orchard Park are on the market, with an asking price of $1.5 million.

The Orchard Park School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to hang a "for sale" sign on the property that has proved to be something of an albatross around the district's neck.

Four years ago, the district paid $1.2 million for the property, which soon became the proposed site for a new $87 million high school. Plans for the high school, dubbed "the Taj Mahal" by its critics, were scrapped after voters came out in droves to defeat the issue in 2002.

Board President William Thiel hopes that selling the land will help lay to rest the defeated high school project that became the symbol of taxpayer frustration in the community.

"[The land] was purchased for the penultimate vote in town. Maybe the sale of it would close that chapter," he said after the meeting Tuesday.

The 60-bedroom convent sits on about 30 acres on one side of the road, with the rest of the acreage on the other side. Some officials in the past couple of years have floated the idea of moving the district offices into the convent, but the concept never gathered enough steam to become a full-developed proposal.

The board and district officials also have flirted with the idea of selling a portion of the property. But that idea encountered resistance from those who wanted to keep some of the land in case the district ever needed to build another school.

That seems to have fallen by the wayside, with officials saying that divvying up the property would make it difficult to attract a buyer. And it's unlikely that the district will be needing to build a new school any time soon, based on enrollment projections, Thiel said. If there were a need to add space, wings could be added to some of the existing schools, he said.

If the district is able to attract a buyer for the Murphy Road property, the sale will be put before voters for approval, as required by state law. The district would use the money to improve the schools, Superintendent Joan D. Thomas said.

"There's over $1 million in taxpayer funds tied up in the land over there," Thiel said. "I think it could be better used elsewhere."

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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