Location, access still sticking points for Sloan ‘elementary campus’ opponents
Access at the proposed site of the new Sloan “elementary campus” continues to be a major concern for both residents and Murrysville council members, who will render their decision on the project at an Oct. 17 meeting.
If the project is approved, however, municipal officials would like to wait and observe the real-time traffic situation before jumping headlong into millions of dollars in potential road improvements.
“The school wants this project to be something that just isn’t,” resident Valerie Mittereder said. “To put that school out there, you have to blow up the roads and redo the whole area.”
Council is in the midst of determining conditions to impose on Franklin Regional School District’s proposal, which would consolidate its elementary students onto one campus by renovating Sloan Elementary and building a second school on the 97-acre property.
Resident Dick Kearns said his concerns can be boiled down to “site, safety and sewage.”
“As to the site, we have a petition signed by 2,200 residents who have said their problem is not with the school, but with the location,” Kearns said, “Safety breaks down to traffic (concerns) and (access by) first responders, and sewage, because we all know the sewage is a mess, and the Sloan project is going to contribute more effluent to the system.”
Resident Matthew Swensson supports the project, and said he felt the majority of the community does also.
“You may not see us here, because a lot of us are families with two working parents,” Swensson said. “But we’re here, and we’re voters.”
Swensson has two children who attend Sloan, “so when I say I’m concerned about kids’ safety, you can believe it.”
Much of council’s discussion at its Sept. 19 meeting centered around traffic, including traffic patterns in the proposed site plan as well as what increased traffic would mean for the bermless, two-lane roads — Sardis and Crowfoot — that border the Sloan property.
“The traffic study commissioned by the municipality raised a number of questions about the roads and bridges, and I don’t know if it’s completely possible to address that in advance (of the project’s completion),” council President Josh Lorenz said.
The municipality’s traffic study indicated that as much as $3 million in bridge upgrades, turning lanes and widening could be necessary to accommodate the anticipated increase in traffic.
Attorney Robert Wratcher, representing Franklin Regional, said the district wasn’t opposed to a post-occupancy traffic study.
Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said that whether it was ultimately the municipality or the school district paying for road improvements, the money would be coming from the same pockets: those of district taxpayers.
“We’re willing to wait and see what the conditions are, and what may be needed to address them,” Morrison said.
Asking the school district to post a bond — or some other form of security — in the event of necessary road improvements is among the conditions council is considering.
Lorenz said a similar approach was taken with the Blue Spruce shopping development.
“We said, ‘Hey, we recognize this as a potential problem, and if there is one, you’re going to have to address it.’ And if there isn’t one, then at least we’ve done our job in looking at this on behalf of the community,” Lorenz said.
Councilman Carl Stepanovich said that “from a strategic standpoint, there could be a better location for this.”
Lorenz said council’s job is not to find a better location, but to scrutinize the school district’s applications for the current site.
“We’re not looking at better alternatives, we’re not looking at other sites,” he said. “We’re looking at whether this land use meets our ordinances.”
Former council member Joan Kearns said it does not.
“Our zoning codes make reference to new development being ‘harmonious’ with the character of the area,” she said. “What they’re designing across the street ain’t harmonious with anything in this community. There will be 120 school bus trips every day, turning onto Crowfoot Road to go to the school. Is that harmonious with what residents anticipate every day in that part of the community?
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Council will meet Oct. 3 to work on finalizing conditions for the project. If they are unable, they will hold a special meeting Oct. 10, with a final, written decision being delivered at the Oct. 17 meeting.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.