Northland News

Marburn Academy plans to move to New Albany

$9.2 million building clears first hurdle with approval from city board

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Marburn Academy is expected to move from 1860 Walden Drive in north Columbus to Griswold Drive in New Albany by 2014.

"When you're turning 20 families away a year, it feels tragic," said the school's headmaster, Earl Oremus.

Marburn Academy was founded in 1981 and teaches students with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and other learning disabilities who struggle to learn in a traditional school environment.

"We teach the way these children learn," Oremus said.

He said many Marburn students spend a couple of years at the academy, then return to a public school system where they graduate. Others graduate from Marburn Academy.

Oremus said in the last 10 years, 100 percent of Marburn graduates have been accepted into college.

He added the academy has 178 students from 26 different school districts.

But more need the school's help, which is why the academy needs to move and build a facility for 250 students, he said.

The school hopes to open in fall 2014 in New Albany's Windsor subdivision, off Johnstown Road.

Academy officials cleared their first hurdle to build in New Albany on June 10 when the New Albany Architectural Review Board approved a certificate of appropriateness for the project and a waiver for construction.

The waiver is required because the school building would be developed on property zoned for residential housing within a planned unit development, said New Albany City Planner Stephen Mayer.

Mayer said the 50,000-square-foot building would be built north of Griswold Drive and west of Johnstown Road. It is covered on all four sides with brick and includes a glass walkway to a gymnasium.

Marburn Academy charges $23,800 a year for high school students and $22,500 a year for lower and middle school students.

Robyn Hofman, director of the school's capital campaign, said it will cost $9.2 million to build the new facility in New Albany.

The school launched its capital campaign in November 2012 and so far has raised 31 percent of the funding needed.

Four neighbors who live in Windsor subdivision spoke to the New Albany ARB June 10 and said they are concerned that a school will overburden their narrow neighborhood roads.

"I appreciate Marburn's goals and I'd like to see them build there. I think it would be a good addition," said Jason Hire of Hearthstone Park. "I find it hard to see a workable solution to traffic there. It's already difficult to get in and out, particularly in the morning."

Jerry Merritt of Parsons Pass said he, too, wants Marburn as a neighbor, but he requested the ARB table the waiver pending a traffic study.

Marburn's attorney, Tim Madison, said the school needs to close on the purchase of the property by June 30.

"It would be really hard for me to have them purchase the property without knowing the use is permitted," Madison told the ARB.

ARB members approved the waiver with the condition that Marburn complete a traffic study. Four ARB members voted in favor and Chairman Bernard Costantino abstained because he said his wife is employed by the architecture firm working on the project.

Adrienne Joly, New Albany's deputy community development director, said the site currently is zoned for 88 homes. The traffic study will compare the amount of traffic the school will generate versus what the 88 homes would have generated.

ARB members also approved the certificate of appropriateness with the condition that the plan is reviewed after the traffic study is complete in a 4-1 vote, with Costantino abstaining.

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