By Tony E. Windsor

A section of property housing the former Paul Lawrence Dunbar School in west Laurel was subdivided into six properties and put up for sale recently. In less than a month, all six properties have sold. During the Monday, June 1, meeting of Laurel Mayor and Council Town Manager Jamie Smith told council that four offers had come in in response to the property sales. She said three of the offers sought to convert property into a parking lot.

A fourth offer from Seaford developer, Clint Dunn, requested to purchase all six properties and build single-family homes. Each of the properties are 50-feet by 80-feet and priced at $15,000 each. Dunn made an offer of $78,000 ($13,000 each) and agreed to pay all utility impact and connections fees associated with the lots.

Smith said one offer for a property came with the potential buyer not willing to pay impact and connections fees. “I turned that offer down because council has stipulated the need for newly developed properties to include these fees,” she said.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar building, which formerly housed an elementary school, is continuing to undergo renovation work to prepare it for being the eventual home of the town’s police department. The building, located on West 7th Street, was transferred to the town by the Laurel School District in July 2018, after the district constructed new high, middle and elementary schools near Central Avenue.

The town secured the building, and in and effort to avoid demolition of the former school has taken measures to bring it back into use. The Telemon Head Start program entered into a lease agreement with the town to operate three classrooms within the Dunbar building. Telemon expressed interest in location at Paul Dunbar as a way to enhance its presence in Sussex County.

Telamon, has operated a 60-child Head Start program on Discount Land Road, in Laurel, and felt the school building would help reach a greater number of underserved families. 

As part of its agreement with the town, Telemon has made renovations to the building and installed new child-safe playground equipment and fencing around the property.

During a Laurel Mayor and Council meeting several months ago, Town Manager Jamie Smith, presented a plan that calls for subdividing a portion of the almost six-acre Dunbar school property into six residential lots. Smith said by subdividing and selling the lots, the town would be able to generate revenue earmarked for use in the ongoing renovation work at the Dunbar project.

Smith told the council that even with the subdivision and sale of the six parcels, the Dunbar property is large enough to accommodate future expansion of the building operations. She said the property is also large enough to be utilized for community events if necessary.

On Monday night, the Laurel council voted unanimously to accept Smith’s recommendation approving Dunn’s offer of $78,000 for all six Dunbar properties. “I believe this will be a long-term benefit to the town, not just from a budget standpoint, but in terms of enhancing property values in that area. Having six new homes built on that property is huge,” Smith said.

She said once Dunn has gotten all necessary paperwork addressed he will begin construction, possibly as early as July.