By Jeff Gallatin
School and city officials are working to keep construction of the new North Olmsted sixth- through 12th-grade school on schedule and alleviate concerns raised again last week by some property owners adjacent to the $90 million project.
North Olmsted City Council’s building, zoning and development committee at an April 11 meeting held consideration of Phase Three of the project in committee after hearing the residents’ concerns. Some property owners attending the meeting said the size and noise of the project were causing problems and asked for additional shielding in the form of a wall or additional solid fencing instead of chain link fences.
North Olmsted School Superintendent Mike Zalar said Monday the district will continue to work on the issues while trying to make sure the project – which also includes new athletic facilities and a performing arts auditorium – stays on schedule to be completed for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
“The BZD Committee’s decision not to vote, but continue to review the proposal for Phase Three was a surprise to our team,” he said. “The delay will prevent the plan from moving forward to City Council and could jeopardize our projected construction timeline. While I understand and appreciate the issues expressed by a handful of homeowners whose personal properties are adjacent to the school campus, we have done our best to accommodate their concerns. Our architects and engineers have worked closely with the city’s planning department. Where it makes sense, we have incorporated feedback solicited from the homeowners into the plan. It is impossible to please everyone with a project of this size and complexity. We are doing our best to meet everyone’s wants and desires for the project as best we can. However, the reality is we must be able to move forward if we are going to keep the project on track. The proposed plan for Phase Three is a good one. The design is well thought-out and resolves many longstanding problems in the area while meeting the greater needs of the community.”
City officials said they will work with the district to try to keep the project on track.
“We heard the residents’ concerns and I’ll be speaking with the school design team to determine if any plan changes can be made,” planning and development Director Kim Wenger said. “The site layout approved in Phase One is firm and cannot be changed.
However, there may be a few areas, specifically concerning screening, that can be improved.”
Dan Rahm, the vice chairman of the building, zoning and development committee, ran the meeting because BZD committee Chairman Paul Schumann owns property adjacent to the school project on Butternut Ridge Road and has been advised by law Director Michael Gareau Jr. to recuse himself from the meetings. Schumann explained this at the start of the meeting, then went to the back of the chambers where he sat and talked with other people throughout the meeting.
Rahm, who is himself a longtime teacher and school administrator, said the residents’ concerns are not uncommon and that the city will work with all parties to try to resolve the concerns.
“It’s a very big project and these are peoples’ homes,” he said. “I’ve seen it before when a new school is built, people are concerned about how it affects them. My experience has been that you can work with people to resolve issues and take care of those concerns. We will work to do that and take care of this project.”
Angela Williamson, the other committee member, cited the residents’ concerns and said they needed to be addressed.
“The residents need to be heard on this and the issues resolved,” she said.
City Council President Nicole Dailey Jones noted afterwards a lot of work has gone into the issue.
“There are things residents have been working with the construction company to address for the better part of a year, and since this is a three- or four-phase project, some of the issues that were brought up couldn’t be addressed by council because they were already approved in Phases One or Two,” she said.
Zalar said the schools will work to resolve the issues.
‘”Our architects and engineers will be meeting with city officials to work through the remaining issues that are holding up the approval process,” he said. “I appreciate the continued support for the project demonstrated by Mayor Kennedy and planning Director Wenger. With their help, I am confident we can get the proposal back on track in a timely manner.”
Zalar said the district has set a community forum for 7 to 8:30 p.m., next Monday, April 24, at Pine Intermediate School, 4267 Dover Center Road, where the district will give an update on the project.
“The Community Forum will provide an opportunity to update everyone on the current state of the project,” he said. “The architect, engineer, and construction manager will be on hand to answer questions regarding all aspects of the construction project. We have made a lot of progress since breaking ground last fall. The weather has been cooperative this past winter and we are excited to bring everybody up to speed on the progress we are making.”