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County sets public hearing on potential sale of Pine Grove School Property

During the March meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners, county leaders were presented with an offer to purchase the county property located at 38 Peeks Creek Road known as the old Pine Grove School building for $100,000. At the request of the commissioners, before entertaining such offer, commissioners wanted to seek public input. The offer to purchase was tabled and a public hearing set for the April meeting of the board schedule for Tuesday, April 9.

The original Pine Grove School in Franklin, NC, operated across the street from the current location from 1855 to 1900s when a fire destroyed the schoolhouse. The Pine Grove School building in Macon County that is standing today has a rich history that dates back to the early 1900s. Originally built in 1912 to replace an older schoolhouse that had burned down, Pine Grove School served as a vital educational center for the surrounding community until its closure in 1949. The school, like many others of its time, featured two rooms—one large and one small—along with a wood stove, an outhouse, and spring water brought in from outside.

After its closure, Pine Grove School continued to serve as a polling place for the Sugarfork area. However, by the early 2000s, the building had fallen into disrepair and was considered unsafe for public use. In response, the Macon County Preservation Society took ownership of the building in 2003 and formed the Pine Grove School Restoration Society, comprised of volunteers and former students, to restore the school to its former glory.

The restoration effort was a community-driven initiative, with the society raising funds and organizing labor to renovate the building. The county provided $15,000 to get the restoration project started with a pledge to match up to $25,000 of the funds raised. The project drew strength from the community’s desire to memorialize the victims of the 2004 Peeks Creek disaster, which had a profound impact on the area.

The restoration efforts were successful, and the renovated Pine Grove School opened its doors as a neighborhood center in 2006. The building now boasts modern amenities such as a kitchen, restrooms, and a small stage, while still retaining its historic charm. The classroom has been recreated with vintage school books, a chalkboard, and old-fashioned desks bearing donor plaques honoring former students.

The reopening of Pine Grove School was celebrated with an open house, attended by former students, neighbors, and friends. For many, the event evoked strong emotions, with some shedding tears of joy at seeing the school restored to its former glory.

Today, the Pine Grove School Community Building continues to serves as a gathering place for the community, hosting events such as student field trips, plays, reunions, music events, and more. It is also used as a voting station and is available for rent for private events.

The county took back ownership of the property in 2021 when the Pine Grove Community Club disbanded after nearly two decades. The community club disbanded as a result of hardships caused by the COVID19 pandemic. With the club dissolved, the county once again became the property owners.

If the county were to accept private offers to off-load the property, significant work would need to be done within the county’s Board of Elections office since the property is currently being used as a polling place. According to Macon County Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault, there are currently 487 registered voters in the Sugarfork Precinct which utilizes the building each election.

In order to combine a precinct into another, likely Sugarfork into Elijay if the Pine Grove School building were to be sold, the board of elections would have to agree on an unanimous plan, then it would have to be sent in to the state board for approval.  Then, if approved, Thibault and her staff would have to send notification to all those in the Sugarfork precinct of the change.  Notification would also have to be placed into the local paper.

A public hearing regarding the future of the school was noticed by the county and is pasted below:

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING regarding the OLD PINE GROVE SCHOOL BUILDING

Take notice that the Macon County Board of County Commissioners will conduct a

public hearing on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 at 6:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Board Room

located on the third floor of the Macon County Courthouse, located at 5 West Main Street,

Franklin, NC 28734, to receive public comment on whether it is in the County’s best interest to

sell the property known as the Old Pine Grove School, an approximate 1.26 acre tract of land

located at the junction of Peeks Creek Road and the Highlands Road, bearing Macon County

Mapping Office Parcel Identification Number 7522092290 and more particularly described in

Book H-42, Page 1836 of the Macon County Registry.

The public is invited to attend and provide comment about the same.

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