Wellington could soon have a new charter school after the Wellington Village Council unanimously approved a comprehensive plan amendment that would allow for such a school to be built on 8.35 acres of land south of Stribling Way on the east side of State Road 7.
The council rejected a portion of the measure, however, that would have allowed for a 15,000-square-foot daycare facility. Council members had postponed action at their April 10 meeting because of concerns about whether there was a need for the school.
The planned facility would serve 1,200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, Planning & Zoning Manager David Flinchum said. The building would be 75,000 square feet.
The land had previously been designated commercial and zoned for a retail furniture sales showroom and design center.
John Schmidt, agent for the applicant, said that Charter Schools USA is expected to operate the school.
Part of the condition of approval includes paying for one-third the cost of a signal at Palomino Drive and SR 7, which Schmidt said his client agreed to do.
Councilman Matt Willhite said he still had concerns about traffic. “I don’t want to impede at peak hours,” he said.
Council members were also concerned about a measure that would allow only lightweight vehicles on the cross-access road from the south of the school, which could force buses to make a U-turn at Palomino Drive to head north to the school.
“Instead of a mom with two kids making a U-turn,” Willhite said, “we’ll have a bus driver with 30 kids making the U-turn. That was part of my concern about the traffic. I would be in agreement with allowing buses to use the cross-access point.”
But Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said she didn’t believe it was fair to force the school to get access from other properties for the buses.
“I can understand limiting the buses and not letting them go through there,” she said, “but I can’t understand requiring the neighboring property to let them go across. Could we get an agreement that the buses would not do U-turns?”
Andrea Troutman, Wellington’s traffic consultant, said she believed that the school has the ability to control the bus routes.
“It’s a condition that we could put on there to restrict the buses from making U-turns,” she said. “It may be more complicated.”
But Gerwig said it would be safer. “It may be out of their way,” she said, “but it would be a safer route.”
Schmidt agreed, pointing out that there will only be six to eight bus trips anticipated each day. “We would be in agreement not to allow U-turns on State Road 7,” he said.
Willhite said he thought several of his concerns from the previous meeting had been addressed. “I appreciate that,” he said, asking if there are plans for the school to serve students above eighth grade.
Schmidt said there are no such plans. “Not on this piece of property,” he said. “It’s a little too small, and I don’t think the parking would work.”
Willhite also asked if plans would change if a daycare center was not allowed, and again Schmidt said they wouldn’t. “That isn’t currently a Charter Schools USA model for this area,” he said.
Councilman John Greene asked if the charter school being proposed would be like a magnet school, targeting a specific type of student.
Schmidt pointed to the Charter Schools USA site that recently had been approved at the old Albertsons building in Royal Palm Beach.
“It’s not a magnet school,” he said. “It’s based on a higher level of education than what the current school district provides. There is no theme. They had over 500 applications since that project started.”
That project, however, has been delayed until 2013.
Schmidt noted that the school is open to any student and that students of military families and those with siblings in the school are the only ones given preferential treatment.
Greene asked if there is an operator in mind for the daycare facility. Schmidt said there was not. “That may be several years down the road,” he said.
Vice Mayor Howard Coates made a motion to approve the measure with conditions that buses not be allowed to make U-turns and that the daycare portion be removed.
Village Manager Paul Schofield clarified that restoring the daycare facility would require an additional change to the comprehensive plan. “They would have to amend [it] if they want the daycare back in,” he said.
Council members agreed, passing the comprehensive plan amendment unanimously.