Since President David R. Anderson '74 e-mailed the faculty, staff and emeriti professors on Feb. 28 about the presence of Boldt consultants on campus, students and community members have voiced concerns that Anderson, along with Sandberg and Vice President and Treasurer Alan Norton, were attempting to sell St. Olaf's natural lands.
At Wednesday's forum, Sandberg tried to assuage fears and dispel rumors that surrounded what is "essentially a fact-finding and information-gathering endeavor." Many community members were concerned that the presence of a consulting firm on campus meant an impending sale of land.
"There is no truth to the phrase originated in the student body that says that President Anderson is selling the lands around campus," Sandberg said. "We're just exploring our options."
The Boldt Consulting Services, a sister company to Boldt Company (the construction company building the new Science Center), has mapped out the 500 acres that run north and west of the campus. Boldt employs experts in real estate, law and architecture to assess land value.
The consultants are only assessing agricultural land near North Ave. and Hwy. 19. They are trying to determine the potential real estate value of the land. The 300 acres the College defines as natural lands, the inner campus and the STOGROW farm will not be assessed. Boldt Consulting Services will report their findings in June.
"The Board of Regents sees the assessment of the land as part of their fiduciary responsibility to the College," Sandberg said. "After Boldt discusses potential uses of the land with the school, students, the city of Northfield and the Northfield area Chamber of Commerce, we can have a better idea of what could be best for the school."
The Boldt consultants at Wednesday's meeting emphasized that they are looking at all options with the primary purpose of the College in mind: educating students. After fielding questions from concerned faculty members who wondered if the only "value" assessed by the firm would be monetary in nature, the consultants repeated that they take into consideration educational value as well as sustainability value.
"We understand that the school has a reputation of stewardship that puts sustainable development at its forefront," said one Boldt consultant.
Much of the environmental concern came as community members learned that the city of Northfield and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) is looking at potentially building a business or light industrial park west of the Northfield Hospital. Their investigation into this development is separate from Boldt's assessment of St. Olaf's land value.
In his e-mail to faculty, staff and emeriti professors, Anderson wrote that the primary goal of Boldt consultants is to determine "how much is the land actually worth, what might the college's options be if we were to decide to use it in some other way, and what are the governmental, economic and political parameters surrounding this conversation."
Throughout the meeting, Sandberg returned frequently to the fact that no decision surrounding the almost 500 acres of land has been made. "The Boldt services are not developers," Sandberg said.
Anderson said in the conclusion of his e-mail: "Now, here's the important part: no decision has been made about whether to use this land differently than we are now using it nor -- if there were to be a different use -- what it might be. Truthfully, the Board simply wishes to have the information so that it can consider this question."
Anderson also posted on his blog at OleVille.com about the Boldt consultation.