Concerns raised at the MJT Planning Commission-Bear Creek School Project

The following representatives were present on behalf of Elizabethtown School District:

Amy Slamp, Superintendent of Elizabethtown School District
George Longridge, Business Manager for Elizabethtown School District
Troy Portser, Director of Community and School Information for the School District
Scott Cousin, Architect with Crabtree Rohrbaugh
Brian Bingeman, Site Engineer for the School District
Mark Stanley, School District Solicitor

Ms. Slamp stated that recent population of the schools has been increasing and currently most schools are at capacity. Instruction is currently going on in some areas that were not intended to be classrooms including storage closets, tables in lobbies, and at the end of hallways in small vestibules; Ms. Slamp also added that there are currently 15 high school teachers that do not have classrooms and travel around with carts all day to different classrooms as they are available. Ms. Slamp stated that several years ago the School District began looking into the possibilities and best means to expand classroom space; the first plan included how the District could expand the elementary schools, including a new intermediate school housing grades 4-6. Ms. Slamp stated that all fourth through sixth graders will be brought together to this school to allow for more space in the elementary areas and will allow for more efficient use of instructional resources. The original plan was to make the East High Street Elementary into the intermediate school, but significant expansions to the building would need to be done and the K through third grade will be displaced, according to Ms. Slamp. Ms. Slamp stated that Fairview Elementary can not handle additional students because of water and sewer issues and Mill Road Elementary is landlocked preventing future growth. Ms. Slamp stated that Elementary schools do not have a lot of nighttime activities; the Gymnasium would be used for the Junior High Sports for all indoor sporting activities. Ms. Slamp stated that there is a timeline due to the space issues; the School District hopes to finish the planning process with the Department of Education at the end of April and work with the Township to be able to go out to bid by September of 2008, break ground in November and have the school open by Fall of 2010. Ms. Slamp stated that the school will not be used immediately as the Intermediate School, but rather will house students of E. High Street Elementary and Mill Road Elementary as those schools are renovated in the 2010-2011 year and in the fall of 2011 it would be used as the four to six building.

Brian Bingeman discussed Engineering issues with the school. Mr. Bingeman stated the Zoning of the property in question is R-2 Medium Density Residential which allows the school by right and at this time; no Zoning Hearings are required for what they are proposing. Mr. Bingeman states that Bear Creek, ponds and wetlands all exist on the site. Mr. Bingeman pointed to the proposed footprint of the building and stated that the classroom wings are located in three “fingerlike appendages” on the back of the building and pointed out other features. The classroom wings will be two stories, not going up but rather down to fit with the grade of the site according to Mr. Bingeman. Mr. Bingeman stated that circulation will be an important issue primarily, the separation of bus traffic and parent drop off and pick up. Mr. Bingeman pointed out both areas on the plans as well as staff parking areas and hard surface play areas. Mr. Bingeman stated that proposed improvements will be to Sheaffer Road including the beginnings of an extension to E. College Avenue. As for storm water management issues, Mr. Bingeman stated that they will comply with the Storm Water Management Ordinance. Mr. Bingeman stated that he is in the process of reviewing the intersections that are required for the traffic studies.

Mr. Cousin, the project designer explained the structural issues with the building. Mr. Cousins pointed out the entrances, classroom wings, gymnasium, locker areas and cafeteria on the plans. Mr. Cousins showed slides of the building layout, exterior and interior areas.

Time was given for the public to comment, the following comments were offered:

Kenneth Kreider, 1300 Sheaffer Road, said that at an earlier meeting the District said busses would be going on Sheaffer to Ridge Road with a potential traffic light at that intersection. Mr. Kreider was concerned that parent drop off traffic from Elizabethtown along Sheaffer Road was not be addressed. Mr. Kreider stated that Sheaffer Road is not capable of handling such traffic. Mr. Kreider stated that he could not believe that Township would let this proceed without doing the College Avenue extension first or at least the readjustment of Sheaffer Road before the traffic is placed on the road.

Mr. Navitski stated that this issue will be addressed in the traffic study and that if improvements are necessary for this use; they will be addressed and would need to be proposed prior to construction.

Carol Kreider, 1300 Sheaffer Road, stated she heard they would be using Groff or Ridge Road to head towards Sheaffer Road. Ms. Kreider stated that her concern is the intersection of Groff Ave. and Market St and hopes a traffic light at that intersection is part of the plan.

Mr. Kraus stated that the intersection that Ms. Kreider is concerned about is in Elizabethtown Borough and West Donegal Township, if the traffic study does still show there is a problem at this intersection solutions may need to be discussed.

Tom Campbell, 1 Meadowbrook Lane, asked if the school district could identify which intersections the traffic counts were taken. Ms. Slamp stated they were the intersections that were identified by the Township and that she did not have a list available.

Mr. Navitski had a list available and stated the following intersections will be included in the study:

• Campus Road and E. College Avenue
• Sheaffer Road and Campus Road
• Ridge Road and Campus Road
• Spring Road and Ridge Road
• Spring Road and Sheaffer Road
• Ridge Road and Sheaffer Road
• Ridge Road and Ridgeview Road
• East High Street and Ridgeview Road.

Mr. Miller asked Mr. Navitski if the new Ordinance that was just passed for traffic studies required all intersections to be studied within a half mile or mile of the project. Mr. Navitski was unsure, however Mr. Campbell stated it was one mile. Mr. Campbell stated that residents along Meadowbrook and College Avenue were not notified of any public meetings and were not invited even though they are at the “throat” of the traffic from the proposed school.

Steve Rutter, 30 Wineberry Court, said that he has questions about the decision of the area. Mr. Rutter believes the school district thinks it is ideal because it is near the other schools, but that Sheaffer Road is a rural road that can adequately handle the traffic now but not the added traffic of the school. Mr. Rutter asked what kind of assurances the residents have about building the roads, will it be before or after the school is opened. Mr. Rutter also added that sidewalks should be considered to encourage kids to walk or ride bike to school.

Jim Keller, 9 Violets Path, stated that he is happy to see the progress the school is making and he moved here to the area a few years ago for the schools. Mr. Keller stated a connection to E. High Street was considered since this area already handles plenty of bus traffic. Mr. Keller also stated that alternative power sources should be investigated to mitigate the tax increases the school may bring.

David Kenley, 1012 E. College Avenue, addressed concerns with the speed the project is being proposed and that effective planning is not taking place. Mr. Kenley also addressed that he was not invited to any of the public meetings and pointed out that a year ago it was all about expanding and not new construction, what is going on that this changed to a new school. Lastly, Mr. Kenley expressed that he is very concerned with the amount of traffic this school will bring on Sheaffer Road.

Jay Walker (unnamed location) expressed his concern that the School District is sacrificing at least eight residential properties instead of sacrificing athletic play fields to use E. High Street as the main entrance and exit point for the school.

Tom Campbell said that the School Board came to the Zoning Hearing Board a while back to propose a number of residential housing units on this lot, at that time the plan showed the entrance at the curve of Sheaffer and they presented testimony that a road was feasible to run to E. High Street. Mr. Campbell stated that the road has all the sudden disappeared and the residential units have disappeared and now are proposing a school. In addition, Mr. Campbell stated that to his belief, the School District owns a right-of-way adjacent to Route 283 to have an entrance onto E. High Street.

Edna Bailey, 1501 Mill Road, said she is concerned with speeding vehicles and the safety of children heading to school.

Jay Walker spoke again, stated the entrance should be considered to E. High Street along the right-of-way that was mentioned by Mr. Campbell.

Fred Orth, 1341 Hickory Run Dr, expressed his concerns with the proposed location of the school. Mr. Orth stated that the School District stated three of the five elementary schools are currently unable to be expanded; this parcel is also landlocked preventing the school from future expansion. Mr. Orth stated the school is a good idea but is being proposed at the wrong location.

Don Kraybill, 6 Shybrook Court, asked if the Township could let him know what the next steps are in the planning process. Mr. Navitski stated that the Staff has not seen anymore than what they are seeing tonight and that the applicant’s have requested to combine the Preliminary with the Final plan which would require a full blown completed plan. This probably will not occur in one meeting and there will be comments and correspondence between the school and the Township on multiple meetings.

Mr. Williams urged residents to call into the Township if they wished to be updated on the progress of plan submittal. Mr. Kraus said we will also place on the website when the meeting Planning Commission will hold the meeting to review the plan.

Mr. Navitski answered a question from Mr. Miller and stated that it is up to the Planning Commission whether they want to approve the Preliminary and Final plan to be submitted concurrently. Mr. Navitski said the Township staff will review the plan and provide recommendations.

Voice Your Questions and Concerns about the Bear Creek School Project!

The EASD ACT 34 hearing for the proposed Bear Creek Elementary school was held Thursday May 1st, at 7:30 PM.  This hearing and the information about the school project was conspicuously missing from the Spring Edition of “Bear Tracks” that was recently mailed by the school district to the community residents. 

 

In case you missed it, a variety of citizens and representatives from Elizabethtown Borough voiced significant concerns.  Fortunately, the public comment session of the hearing was not the only opportunity to express your opinions and ask questions.

 

Residents are encouraged to ask questions and express concerns about this major school project.  Please email questions and comments to the School Board Secretary at: becky_maxwell@etownschools.org.  The deadline is noon, June 1st, 2008. 

Bear Creek School Project-Mt. Joy Street, Chestnut Street, College Avenue

According to the EASD Beak Creek School proposal, this area will see the majority of Faculty/Staff, and Parent drop-off traffic from the direction of the population center and West Donegal Township.  There are many identifiable problems with intersections and roadways.  The notes refer to the photo.  These problems need to be researched and either dismissed or resolved before approving the plan.

In general, the traffic along College Avenue is bustling during the same times of the day and year as the proposed intermediate school.  College Avenue has at least 44 parallel parking spaces that are day use only. This means that students and staff will be trying to parallel park during peak traffic times.  The College’s Plant Operations center is on the north side of College Avenue, requiring that lawn mowers, golf carts, service vehicles, aerial lifts, etc, must traverse and cross College Avenue.  These vehicles typically use College Avenue during the peak school hours.

Note #1
* Traffic on College Avenue is going to increase dramatically due to the growth in West Donegal Township and the new South Square.  There is a crosswalk with a flashing pedestrian light.  Pedestrian traffic for the College coincides with the traffic for the school.  Is this a bottleneck?

Note #2
* The intersection of Chestnut Street and College Avenue is often congested in the morning, and especially during inclement weather.
* The intersection is hampered due to the narrow south entrance to Chestnut Street.
* Parent drop-offs in the morning have difficulty making this turn from College Avenue.  Traffic heading to the intermediate school will need to turn left onto College Avenue, further congesting this intersection.

Note #3
* This intersection is already busy due to High Street bound main campus school traffic and the College opening.  Traffic from the population center and the booming housing construction in West Donegal Township will flow through this intersection.  Will this intersection require a traffic light?
Note #4
* The Intersection of East Park Street and Chestnut Street is congested in the morning.  Generally, the traffic is headed in the same direction as parents drop off students at the High School/ Middle school complex.
* Traffic headed for the Intermediate school will now need to cross this flow of traffic, further congesting this intersection.

Other Notes:
* Currently these intersections are located in the borough and are not being studied.
* College Avenue will likely see an explosion of traffic when the new South Square is complete, and 450 or more houses are constructed in West Donegal Township.

Bear Creek School-Sheaffer Road, Campus Road, and College Avenue

According to the EASD Bear Creek School proposal, this section of the road will see the majority of Faculty/Staff, and Parent drop-off traffic from the direction of the population center.  There are many identifiable problems with intersections and roadways.  The notes refer to the photo.  These problems need to be researched and either dismissed or resolved before approving the plan.

Note #1
* Sheaffer Road is already very narrow and in poor condition at this point.  It is possible that the road cannot be widened due to the Mennonite cemetery and the setbacks for Shybrook?
* Are sidewalks required further limiting the ability to widen the road at this point?

Note #2
* Traffic originating on Campus Road will need to make a difficult turn that is more than 90 degrees and not always possible if cars are lined up at the stop sign.
* This intersection will likely need to be realigned to some degree to correct this problem.  How will this intersection be corrected without acquiring property and doing some realignment of the intersection?

Note #3
* This intersection has poor sight lines due to the bank and trees next to the lake.
* Cars lined up to make the left turn are going to back up into the intersection of Campus Road and Sheaffer road, which is a very short distance from the intersection.  Is this acceptable?
* Traffic at this intersection coincides with the opening of the College.  This intersection is already busy between 7:30 AM and 9 AM.

Note #4
* Drivers will quickly figure out that driving west on Sheaffer Road, and turning right onto Clover Lane and left onto College Avenue eliminates two stop sign intersections.
* It is likely that Clover Lane will see a substantial amount of new traffic.  What are the ramifications for pushing large volumes of traffic down a residential lane?

Other Notes:
* Sheaffer Road and the intersection of Sheaffer Road and Campus Road will need to be widened and improved prior to the school opening and before the College Avenue extension is opened.  Does it make sense to improve this road section, when it will eventually return to a low traffic local access road?
* Will sidewalks be required?  Who pays for sidewalks?
* Utility poles will need to be relocated or direct buried.
* Who is going to pay for the improvements?  MJT or EASD?
* Who is going to pay for the improvements?  MJT or EASD?
* Given that road improvements will be needed, is it possible to have these improvements engineered and completed before the school opens?

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania Citizen Journalism