Anthony Dell'Aera, a panel member, asked Milone & MacBroom about the city’s plan of development. He asked if the planners should consider more than the report mentioned.
Vincenet McDermott, a consultant for the school board, said there are “broad comments” about educational sites in the city’s master plan. The issue here is whether these are acceptable sites.
Planning Chairman Bill Veits said the city’s master plan, almost a decade old, said the city is “not likely to experience a shortage of school space” and was unlikely to need new schools.
Brian Ewings, another commissioner, asked where the students would come from for the two schools.
Superintendent Philip Streifer said that about 1,400 will come from the four schools eyed for closure.
“We think we’ll be able to fill the two K-8s with the 1,400” but enrollment may increase more. “If it doesn’t, we could possibly close another elementary school,” Streifer said.
Streifer said he would like to see citywide busing for all students “for safety reasons.”
He said there is a safety hazard with ice and poor sidewalks. Some students don’t even come to school in bad weather.
Streifer said he will propose next year “to bus all children regardless of the new schools.”
John Soares, the vice chairman of the planning panel, said the size of the athletic field sizes “appear to be large.”
McDermott called the diagram “simply a bold” map “to determine if there is sufficient size” for a school and fields. “It is not in any way considered to be a design,” he said.
Update at 8:06 --
Streifer said the City Council and school building panels decided the sites were appropriate for the criteria that the planning began with.
Jim Barrett, one of the consultants that did the first study, said the initial matrix used for sites was not weighted. “It wasn’t a stand alone, sole document determining the outcome,” Barrett said.
Streifer said that busing “is an issue for the Board of Education” and it’s up to it to decide what to do about after school busing.
“It’s a different environment” today, Streifer said, re busing.
Question about the infrastructure of the Scalia site…
McDermott said that infrastructure was considered. He said there will be a need to make road improvements, extend water lines and other issues that would have to be addressed.
“The question here is whether this site is appropriate for a school,” McDermott said.
Question re closed schools…
Streifer said they will be turned over to the city. “They are in severe need of repair” and would probably be sold for commercial development, Streifer said.
Dell’Aera said that the issues involved in the referral from the City Council give the impression of “a very narrow vision” of what the role of planners is. One thing he said he would like to note that the state statute appears to take a wider view.
The state statute offers “a more inclusive set of criteria” beyond the “very narrow vision of what the Planning Commission ought to consider” in the view of the school board, Dell’Aera said.McDermott said that the transportation issues are not something that should be considered now. He said the street system is adequate.
Update at 8:20 --
Among those in the audience are former Mayor Bill Stortz, city Councilors Craig Minor, Mike Rimcoski, Cliff Block, Kevin McCauley and Ken Cockayne. There are many school officials, too, including most of the members of both of the school building committees.
McDermott is arguing that the question of roads, sewers, drainage and other issues “aren’t on the table” now. They can all be dealt with, he said.
“The design questions come at a later time,” he said. The only question, McDermott said, is “can this site support a school?”
City Planner Alan Weiner said he disagrees with McDermott’s thoughts on the issue.
The board that gets to decide ultimately on the appropriateness of the site is the Zoning Commssion, when it deals with a site plan.
Weiner said the panel here has a larger issue – to look at whether the site fits with the needs of the entire city.
“You have the ability to weigh that not in a vacuum, but to look at it in the context of the city as a whole,” Weiner said.
He said the point of the planning panel having a say is for members to consider how the site fits into the larger view of what the commission wants for the city.
The state requires a planning report for municipal developments, Weiner said, and there is no need to limit it solely to the adequacy of the site or even whether it fits within the master plan.
Instead, Weiner said, planners should be able to consider whether it is an appropriate site “as an engine of land use development and change.”He said the choice is “somewhat larger” than McDermott urges.
McDermott said he doesn’t entirely disagree, but, he said, if the commission had concerns about a site they might have been identified potential locations in the master plan.
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