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Council, Plannnig Commission approve school construction

The Planning Commission and City Council both approved the Westlake City Schools plans to build a new high school and new middle school.

Four residents spoke at Council’s June 16 meeting to express their concerns that school construction may adversely affect their properties.

Most of the issues revolved around concerns that Bassett Road residents have about a new driveway that’s being constructed to the district property from their street. At the district’s Dover Center Road property, Lee Burneson Middle School will be renovated as an intermediate school. A new middle school will also be built on the site. Dover Elementary School also sits on that site.

Bassett Road resident Ken Veneri told Council that he still had concerns about traffic that he felt were not adequately addressed at earlier public meetings on school construction that he attended.

Based on results of a traffic study, a traffic signal will be placed at the Dover Center Road entrance to the district’s property, but not at the Dover Center-Bassett Road intersection.

“I don’t believe that they’ve done all their homework on all the issues, especially the drainage issue,” Veneri said.

Other residents also worried that construction would result in flooding at their properties.

Gerald Phillips, an attorney who has sparred with the city over several issues in the past decade, spoke on behalf of another Bassett Road property owner. His client has concerns that noise and lighting once the new school buildings are up will be annoying. He questioned whether the district’s plans provided enough tree buffering for its neighbors.

The school district’s submitted plans did not adequately address those concerns, Phillips argued.

City Engineer Bob Kelly said detailed plans will be required for the city to issue construction permits. Plans submitted to the Planning Commission do not require that same level of detail.

Council members considered a motion by Ward 4 Councilman Michael O’Donnell that would require the district to take additional measures to ensure adequate buffering for Bassett Road residents.

However, ensuring that the city code’s opacity requirement limiting obtrusive lighting was met might require replacing existing trees with evergreen trees, something no one seemed to want.

Ward 1 Councilman Ed Hack said many of the concerns expressed by neighbors will have to be worked out as the construction project moves along.

“It’s a little bit of a work in progress,” Hack said of the $84 million project approved by voters in May 2010.

In the end, Council members decided to trust Superintendent Dan Keenan to keep the neighbors happy, something Keenan pledged to do.

Ward 2 Councilman Jim Connole called on the city’s Engineering Department to carefully review the district’s construction plans to ensure no drainage problems occur.

Ward 5 Councilman Ken Brady also called on Keenan to keep in mind similar concerns residents of Settlers Reserve Way and Taylors Mill Run have regarding construction of the new high school.

The new middle school for grades seven and eight is expected to be completed by the winter of 2012-13. Renovation of Lee Burneson as an intermediate school should be done by the winter of 2013-14. The new high school should be completed by the fall of 2013.



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