Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board members say the offer of free land to build a school at Obey Creek may cost more than meets the eye.

Ben Perry, of East West Partners, offered the district either 15 or 25 acres on the 120 acre Obey Creek site to build a new school across from Southern Village.

“We’ve got really no dog in this fight, we will support whatever you want to do with the [Town] Council,” said Perry, speaking at a school board meeting last week. “This is land that is going to generate no revenue for us either way.”

But to put the land to use, the district would need to build a bridge estimated to cost approximately $1 million. Steep slopes and environmentally sensitive areas also make developing the site difficult.

East West Partners is in the process of negotiating with the Chapel Hill Town Council on a development agreement that would govern the build-out of the Obey Creek project. The 1.5 million square foot proposal has drawn fire from neighbors concerned about the size of the development and the traffic it might generate.

School board Chair Jamezetta Bedford told Perry she wants to wait until the negotiations with the Council have advanced before further evaluating the offer.

“I don’t want to be a political pawn and I don’t want to get into it,” said Bedford. “I don’t want to upset my colleagues on the Town Council, I don’t want to upset my neighbors, I don’t want to upset the County Commissioners.”

The board was much more eager to consider an offer of land across the street from Chapel Hill High School. The 9.3 acre site abuts land owned by the district and would more than double the total acreage at the site.

Executive Director of School Facilities Bill Mullin said the location offers more flexibility for planning new schools.

“It has a frontage on Homestead Road, which makes it very, very attractive if we were considering an elementary school, a high school addition, or another district building.”

The price of the parcel has not been disclosed, pending negotiation with the landowner in closed session.