ST. JOHN | To address residents’ concerns about the new Lake Central High School plans, the architects went back to the drawing board.
At Wednesday’s St. John Plan Commission study session, architects from Schmidt Associates of Indianapolis gave a PowerPoint presentation to clarify features of the high school site plan that drew ire from residents of two adjacent subdivisions at a May 2 public hearing.
No public comments were allowed during the study session. The next public hearing will be at the June 6 Plan Commission meeting.
The bus staging area at the back of the school property was a major concern. Residents of Heron Lake remonstrated at the May 2 hearing about buses idling in that staging area. Schmidt Associates architect Tom Neff said the buses won’t idle.
“They will be there only 15 minutes to drop off students in the morning,” Neff said. At the end of the school day, the buses will arrive at 2 p.m.and leave by 2:18 p.m.
Stringent air quality regulations prohibit the buses from idling, he said. Only when the temperature is below 30 degrees are buses allowed to idle and then for only 10 minutes, Neff said.
He also stressed that the site plan maintains the current chain link fence on the western edge of the school property that abuts Heron Lake subdivision.
Remonstrators earlier had opposed the landscaping design proposed by the Lake Central School Corp. Neff said native plants will be installed in dense beds to create a visual barrier between the school and the residential areas.
“This is similar to landscaping done along highways that doesn’t require irrigation or maintenance,” he said.
Residents complained that current landscaping at the school has not been maintained.
Lake Central Superintendent Larry Veracco acknowledged the district hasn’t spent money on maintaining what would eventually be replaced in new construction.
“It will be a major expense (to maintain new landscaping),” he told commissioners. “I assure you we will take care of it.”
A sidewalk will be installed along U.S. 41 to allow access to students who walk to school, Neff said. That was originally a waiver the district was seeking from the Plan Commission.
Two additional sidewalks will be installed on the school property. One will be placed beside Ziggy’s Funland property to access the new football field. Another will connect the front of the school to the sidewalk along U.S. 41 Neither will cross in front of traffic, he said.
Residents also asked that a traffic study be conducted. The district has contracted with First Group Engineering to do that traffic study. The study will be available prior to the next Plan Commission meeting and public hearing on June 6.
Lights spilling over onto adjacent residential property also was addressed.
He said no lights are being installed along the perimeter of the school property. The football field, which will be lit during home games is being relocated to a north-south configuration and will be 500 feet from the residential areas.
Lake Central’s band practice area also was a sticking point for Heron Lake residents. When the construction is completed, the band will practice in the bus staging area.
“We put the band back there for safety,” Veracco said.
Veracco also said it was unfortunate that residents “vented” about school operations in front of town officials rather than come to the school administration and School Board.
“This needs to be brought to us,” he said.