Plan Commission OKs School Building Projects

Though there were questions about traffic, the Warsaw Plan Commission Monday night unanimously approved all three development plans for Warsaw Community School Corp.’s building projects.
The projects include building a new Lincoln Elementary and additions and improvements to Washington STEM Academy and Edgewood Middle School.
On Lincoln, City Planner Jeremy Skinner told the Commission that his department had reviewed the development plan and it meets all the city’s requirements. The new school will be bult on 8 acres west of the existing school, and the two-story building will be around 84,800 square feet.
“With Lincoln Street, a couple of things that we’ve been working with the school on for the last six months or so is traffic flow movement. One of our concerns was we wanted to maintain Lincoln Street as the main egress and ingress point for the new Lincoln Elementary School. And certainly if you look at the plans, they show that,” Skinner said.
The other issue, he said, was that the building fit into the neighborhood and had the least amount of impact because it is surrounded by residential and some commercial on the south side.
“You’ll notice that any trash removals, any kind of services to the school in terms of any … box trucks will be on that south side, away from the residential neighborhood,” Skinner said.
Renderings of the building by Veridus Group, the Indianapolis engineering firm hired by WCS for the projects, show a building that fits into the neighborhood, he said.
“We continue to work with them. We do have a sewer line running through the site and we’ve been working with them and will continue to do so to find a good resolution to that issue. Outside of that, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t approve this,” Skinner continued.
With Sacred Heart a block away, and their traffic overlapping, Board President Tom Allen asked if there was any discussion on that.
Skinner replied that they had a “lot of discussion on traffic flow.” Their major issues were ingress and egress on the existing streets, with Lincoln Street being the main street for that. Colfax and Clark streets, specifically Colfax, are in no position to handle additional traffic.
“We took a lot in, we took a lot of factors into play when we were advising them of what we’d like to see. With that, there’s going to be traffic. That’s not going to go away, but we do feel what’s on this plan is the best solution for everyone,” Skinner said.
Rick Keeven, Commission member, asked if the neighborhood was happy with the plan. “We feel that they are, yeah. We feel that this will be the less invasive,” Skinner replied.
Commission member, Warsaw Community High School teacher and City Councilman Jeff Grose represents the area as part of his district on the city council.
“I think the location, as well as the traffic flow of the bus and parent drop off and pick up are what made this proposal very attractive,” Grose said. “I support the proposal.”
Commission member and former WCS teacher Dave Baumgartner asked what the time frame of the project was. Skinner said it’s expected to be built by the end of 2016.
Jim Gast, Commission member, asked what the projected enrollment for Lincoln was. Skinner said in the first year a significant increase was not expected, but WCS was expecting an increase in enrollment at Lincoln over the next few years. Jim LeMasters, representing WCS, responded that enrollment currently was between 340 and 360. Grose said the new school was expected as a four-section school.
Colin Finch, with Veridus Group, then presented the renderings, design plans and grading plans of Lincoln, Washington and Edgewood.
Finch said Lincoln will be aligned north/south, with its academic wing on the north end and gym and cafeteria to the south. Per city standards, trees will be on the entire perimeter of the site. A large grassy area for soccer will be on the northeast of the lot. The classroom wing will be two stories, and there will be two different playground areas for younger and older students. There will be a large parking area for on-site parking, which Finch said should help keep cars off the streets. Buses will have their own designated parking area off Main Street. There will be stormwater detention areas off Lincoln and Colfax and Clark streets, and they will be fenced off.
For Washington, Finch said there were two different parking areas for bus drop-off on either side of the school. The rendering showed a new addition of classrooms to the south face of the school with a “much nicer” entry to the school, he said. A new drive will come from the high school and around the administration building to Washington.
Moving on to Edgewood, Finch said the project includes an addition to the front with classrooms, hallway and a collaboration area and a new entry. A new bus area will be in the back of the school, with buses coming from Logan Street. Parent drop-off will be in the front. The project also will include interior work.
The grading plan will take the stormwater to the low swale area in front of the school where it currently is located.
After Allen asked if there were any questions from the audience, Bill Pochron, Fisher Avenue resident, said, “I live out there and I drive those roads every day. I work at Warsaw Coil, I get off at 3 p.m. The traffic out there is horrendous. Coming from Winona Avenue, it’s feeding off Logan Street, it’s feeding off … Union, Prairie. It’s quite heavy. With this new plan, I was concerned about traffic load. It’s at 7:30 and 3 o’clock. And don’t talk to me about Friday afternoons. You well know that. That’s my concern … it’s the traffic.”
Allen said the traffic flow, at least from what he could tell, was going to be pretty close to the same.
“It’ll change a little bit,” Skinner said. “And some of the conversations we’ve had over the last six months were dealing with that issue. One, trying to use Logan Street for what it was intended, which was to take that school traffic. And I think the schools are looking at a couple of things that will do that. One of which is they’re cutting off the Administration Drive entrance, that will no longer be there. The drop-off and pick-up for Washington is going to come off of the school’s campus, which is going to move from Union and Kincaide.”
The school bus traffic for Edgewood, which currently comes from Union and Kincaide, will be pushed to the school campus, which will come off Logan Street,  Skinner continued.
While the city and school corporation is trying to deal with the traffic, Skinner said, “You’re going to have to deal with it no matter what. It’s always going to be there. It’s what’s the best way to manage it.”
Tyler Moore asked if there will be sidewalks at Lincoln for students who walk to school. Finch said there would be sidewalks all around the school.
Baumgartner made the motions to approve each development plan, which the Commission approved.

(Story By The Times Union)