The Salem-Keizer School District is going to court to force a Keizer church to sell its land.

At issue are about six acres of bare land owned by St. Edward Catholic Church that district leaders say they need to expand the campus of the adjacent McNary High School.

Church leaders rejected a November district offer to sell the land for $1.75 million, according to Marion County Circuit filings.

Parishoners and community members objected to the sale at a November school board meeting, saying it would inhibit the growing parish’s ability to expand and disrupt the peaceful atmosphere around the church.

A school district appraisal valued the land at $1.56 million last year, but officials offered the church more “in an effort to compromise on the amount of just compensation paid to your client and to avoid the costs of litigation,” according to a letter to the church by J. Kevin Shuba, representing the district.

The district filed a lawsuit Dec. 27 asking the court to condemn the property, the first step in taking the land by eminent domain.

As part of that process, the district deposited $1.75 million in a court fund. The church can receive that money even if it continues fighting the sale. The church has 14 days to respond to the court action.

Stopping the sale would require the church to prove the district isn’t using the property for a public purpose. The church also can challenge the price the district is offering and seek more money for the land.

School district attorneys have asked the court to allow the district to take the property immediately so architects can complete the design for the campus and the district can get permits from the city. Construction at McNary is scheduled to begin later this year.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: (503) 575-1241 or [email protected]

A note from our editor:

Thank you for reading another example of our local journalism. This kind of work takes paid professionals and we rely on subscribers to support this work. If you haven't yet signed on as a Salem Reporter subscriber, please ensure you get more of these kinds of stories with your subscription: https://www.salemreporter.com/subscribe/simple.

Thank you.

- Les Zaitz, editor