GRIFFITH – Crossroads YMCA will have a few hoops to hop before it can move from Franklin Center to the Ready Elementary School building, the Town Council said Tuesday.
The Griffith School Board announced last month it plans to close Ready and consolidate the two remaining elementary schools.
Part of the plan is for the YMCA to occupy the Ready building and the organization has already given a 90-day notice to the town, Town Council President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, said Tuesday.
However, the council — which physically held a meeting at Town Hall for the first time since the "Shelter at Home" policy — said the YMCA must obtain a rezoning of the school building before it could move in.
A letter to advise of this requirement has been delivered to the them.
"The letter was received by the YMCA this morning," Ryfa said.
"The YMCA ... must hold a public hearing for that change," he said. "It will give residents an opportunity to speak for or against in a public meeting."
The school building is in a residential zone, but the organization must have a business zone to operate — or obtain a zoning variance.
Building Commissioner Steve McDermott said a contractor for the YMCA contacted him about signage allowances for the Ready location and this brought attention to the zoning issue.
The YMCA, which would operate in Ready as a nonprofit organization, also faces another hurdle because not-for-profit businesses are not allowed on Broad Street.
Thus, the organization must have two public hearings for variances before the Board of Zoning Appeals — for incorrect zoning and operating as a nonprofit group.
"We would be interested — as a Plan Commission and a Town Council — to hear from the public in the BZA public hearings," said Council Vice President Larry Ballah, R-2nd. "To give discussion and voice their opinions."
Ballah is the council's liaison to the BZA and is president of the Plan Commission.
The council noted that the school board's action to close Ready took place without public comment due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
"We will not hold any public hearings when the public would be restricted from attending the meeting," Ryfa said. "The final vote will come to the Town Council" after whatever action is taken by the BZA, he added.
In its letter to the YMCA, the council said the variances must be satisfied before it will be allowed to occupy Ready.
In part, the letter says, "Only after the YMCA receives the required variances, and site plan review and approval, may it apply for requisite permits which may include, but are not limited to, improvement location permits, building permits and permits necessary to complete work, and a certificate of occupancy in order to occupy the subject property."
The school board has said it hopes its plan will help solve financing problems after the school town ran a negative operating budget in 2018.
Along with closing Ready, the school board plans to teach grades K-2 at Wadsworth Elementary and grades 3-5 at Beiriger Elementary, while sixth graders would go to Griffith Middle School.
Elementary students riding school buses would be transported to the middle/high school and be rerouted to their respective schools.
Ryfa said the council, as a group, is not yet taking any side regarding the school town's plans.
However, Tony Hobson, R-5th, said there is no logic in busing kids who live across from one school to another school across town.