Subdivision's residents may sue over plans for elementary school
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 9:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 11:09 p.m.
Alachua County school officials presented a revised plan Thursday for an elementary school, months after meeting opposition from residents of a nearby subdivision.
Not good enough, residents said.
Wellington Place residents will vote whether to sue the school district next week after a revised plan didn't meet their expectations.
At issue is a new elementary school being constructed at Northwest 39th Avenue and 112th Street, slated to open in 2012. The original plan called for all school traffic to exit onto the sole road for Wellington Place residents. The new plan diverts car traffic onto Northwest 39th Avenue but sends up to 8 buses onto the subdivision's road.
That's unacceptable, said Dan Berben, president of Wellington Place's homeowner's association.
"We're probably going to get some kind of legal counsel, because we're just not happy with the bus loop," he said.
The subdivision's developer signed an agreement with the school district in which the district ceded 75 feet of land so Northwest 112th Street could be built, with the conditions that the road be used for school traffic, according to the school district.
The school will serve more than 500 students and is being built to help alleviate overcrowding at several area elementary schools, including Hidden Oak and Talbot.
The site is bound by county codes as well as environmental concerns that make the location difficult to develop, school officials said. The west side of the property must be maintained for environmental reasons and the steepness makes it unfeasible to relocate bus traffic there.
Designers and staff tried to note residents' concerns and answer questions in a second voluntary meeting.
"We are taking notes so we could be sure that we're hearing everyone," designer Monique Heathcock said.
Paul Ciotola, who lives in a cul-de-sac near the proposed school, said the sidewalks to the school along the subdivision's road would be open invitations to hurried parents looking for a shortcut.
"What you're doing is encouraging parents to pull down 112th and drop off their children right there, which to them would be much simpler than going through the loop," he said.
While the designers understand the concerns, said civil engineer Robert Walpole, the sidewalk is necessary.
"We need the 87 kids from Wellington to get to school without having to go out to 39th Avenue," he said.
Gene Bierbaum said even the bus traffic, which could easily back up car traffic, is too much.
"We're really kind of appalled that you would even consider coming into our area where there's 175 homes and only one exit," he said.
Ed Gable, facilities director for Alachua County Schools, said the district is doing the best it can.
"It's not perfect," he said. "The site's not perfect, the neighborhood's not perfect, but we're doing the best we can to accommodate 700 children going to a brand new elementary school."
Resident George Wilson said there's a simple solution — sell the site.
Residents said they felt like their concerns weren't being taken into consideration and worried their property values would go down.
"We wouldn't be here for a second meeting if that was our attitude," Gable said.
Pamela Brockway said she had a final question.
"All I want to know before I leave here tonight, I want you all to look me in the eye and just tell me — is this truly the very best you can do?" she said. "Because if it is the truth, we're probably going to have to live with it. We're trusting you."
Contact Jackie Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org or 338-3166.
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