The Gahanna Planning Commission on Dec. 19 approved a final development plan for construction of the new Lincoln Elementary School, but the decision was far from unanimous.
The plan for the school to be built on property at 349 Shady Spring Drive was approved 4-3, with members John Hicks, Rick Duff, Joe Keehner and Michael Suriano voting in favor of the plan and Bobbie Burba, Donald Shepherd and Thomas Wester dissenting.
Gahanna deputy development director Michael Blackford said the new school would be on the Middle School South campus and would replace the elementary school that’s adjacent to the high school.
He said the school is consistent with the land-use character, as the property already is being used for a school.
Blackford said staff recommends approval, pending a traffic study.
Shepherd said he was troubled that he had to consider a final development plan that didn’t have all the information he needed, including the traffic impact.
“You’ve come to us too soon, in my view,” Shepherd said. “I’ll have to turn it down.”
Blackford said the traffic-impact study isn’t required for the final development plan.
“If at the conclusion of the study, the site plan is changed … if this isn’t the plan they want to build, they would have to come back. We don’t anticipate that being an issue,” Blackford said.
Wester, commission chairman, said he has seen a lot of final development plans over the years and thinks this plan is incomplete.
“You’ve located the building, but there are other things that go on the site plan,” he said. “I think there are a lot of questions to be asked. Some residents didn’t have the opportunity to attend the meetings. I think the schools need some follow-up with residents.”
Assistant city attorney Kristin Rosan said the final development plan is the layout, and the design review is separate and would include such items as fencing and landscaping.
Suriano said he’s excited to see the plans and movement on the school.
“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “Understanding the traffic impact is to your and everyone’s benefit. I trust we’ll take that into consideration.”
Duff said he took notice of the school district’s process.
“It has been a long process,” he said.
Duff said he lives near a school, and when there’s an impact on traffic, the school district is responsive.
“I think the plan looks really good,” he said. “It will relieve traffic on main thoroughfares. I fully support this plan.”
Shady Spring Drive resident Clint Allen said he’s concerned about flooding.
“Since you won’t have the ground to absorb, where will water run off to?” he said.
Civil engineer Dan Biru said a detention basin is there already.
“Part of the approach for the development is to expand the existing detention basin,” he said. “We’ll work with the engineering staff to ensure we meet current regulations. This detention basin would be a dry basin. Stormwater would back up into this controlled area and not put your property in danger, including your basement.”
Keehner said the site could provide educational potential with rain gardens connected to stormwater drainage.
“There’s other things you can do other than conventional stuff,” he said. “I’m a big fan of innovation and this is an educational opportunity.”
Resident Kari Hawk said she’s excited to see a new school built but strongly dislikes the idea of a ballfield that’s proposed near Dellfield Way.
“I’d like to see the ballfield gone,” she said.
Buzz Foresi, a landscape architect with the Edge Group Inc., said three ballfields are on the site, and two are being displaced.
“They’re an integral part of the school,” he said. “There’s a lot of grading issues. We can add landscaping and trees.
“The ballfield is regulation size, and balls do get hit. We can expand landscaping to soften that,” he said.
Foresi said additional fencing could be considered to soften the relationship with neighbors in regard to a drive for the drop-off and pickup of students.
“In terms of the drive, we recognize sensitivity to residences,” he said.
Jocelyn Krosky, project manager for Triad Architects, said the district has spent a great deal of time with the community at large and district staff on the project.
“It’s important to us the community be a part of this project,” said Steve Barrett, Gahanna-Jefferson superintendent. “The way we look at our schools and our facilities is, they don’t belong to us; they belong to the community. We want to build something that the community is proud of.”
Blackford said the property is zoned restricted institutional district, which permits elementary schools.
Even with the addition of a 93,000-square-foot school, he said, the overall property is developed at a relatively low density, with more than uncovered 26 acres.
Blackford said no variances are associated with the request; however, additional applications and review will occur as part of the design-review process.
In other commission action:
• The commission decided to positively recommend to Gahanna City Council an application by the Mifflin Township trustees for 3.87 acres at 219 N. Hamilton Road, currently zoned community commercial to be rezoned restricted institutional district, for a governmental office building.
The building would house fire-department personnel, including dispatchers and the fire-prevention staff, said Mifflin fire Chief Fred Kauser.