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home : news : education August 18, 2019

8/2/2019 4:41:00 AM
Residents Don't Like Charter School Location

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

Westlake Preparatory Academy, a new K-8 charter school, will open this month in the Holy Spirit Catholic Church on Highway 16-business.  It's a temporary location until a permanent home can be built.

Ryan Companies US, Inc., the company chosen to build the new school,  is requesting the rezoning of 26 acres from CU PD-MU (Conditional Use Planned Development-Mixed Use) to PD-MU (Planned Development-Mixed Use) amending the master plan for The Villages of Cowans Ford planned mixed-use development to permit a charter school for grades K-8 and an early childhood learning center.

The proposed location is on Club Drive just off Highway 73. A community involvement meeting was held  Thursday evening (August 1st) at the East Lincoln Community Center to provide information about the plan and to gauge community support or objection to it.

One thing became abundantly clear: most of the residents who packed the Community Center don't like the proposed location.  

Some of those present were unaware of NCDOT plans for Highway 73.  The current plan (approved this year) will make the highway a 'super street' when it is four-laned.  The project isn't expected to be completed until 2026.  Construction won't start until 2023.  

Under the 'superstreet' design, drivers on the main road may go left, right or straight. Drivers on side streets (like Club Drive) will have to turn right to enter the flow of traffic--even if they want to go the other direction. To turn in that direction, the drivers, after turning right, will enter a dedicated left turn lane to make a U-turn.

Traffic--both before and after the NC73 widening project--was the main concern of many of those who spoke at the meeting.  Most said they weren't opposed to the new charter school, but thought the choice of location was wrong.

Current zoning allows for developers to build commercial buildings totaling up to 90,000 square feet, but to build a school there will require a change in the zoning.  A public hearing on that request will be held September 9th.

Three Lincoln County Commissioners attended the Thursday meeting.  Commissioner Rich Permenter didn't speak, but Commissioners Bud Cesena and Milton Sigmon told the crowd that unless a new charter school is built, it's likely the County will have to build a new school somewhere in the area.  The charter school construction will be financed by investors, but if the County builds another school, taxpayers will have to bear the cost.

The public hearing on the rezoning request will be held at the joint meeting of County Commissioners and the Planning Board on September 9th.  

The Commissioners and Planning Board meeting this Monday (Aug. 5th) is being held in the auditorium at the Citizens Center.  The move was made to accomodate what was expected to be a large crowd wanting to comment on a request to rezone 3.6 acres from R-SF (Residential-Single Family) to CZ B-G (Conditional Zoning General Business) to permit a self-storage facility on the east side of Little Fork Cove Road about 400 feet north of Webbs Road.  That public hearing has been postponed. 

The self-storage location is in the same area where a proposed solar farm was turned down by Commissioners on multiple occasions dating back to 2013.  The decision was overturned in a court challenge by the property owners in a decision by an appellate court this month.  

Other items up for consideration at public hearings on Monday are considered less controversial but the decision had already been made to move the hearing to the Citizens Center auditorium instead of the County Administration Building on N. Generals Blvd.  No new date for the hearing on the request for the self-storage facility has been set, but if it becomes a part of the September hearings, a move to the Citizens Center because of that request and the charter school rezoning request could force another such location change for the hearings.

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