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BOA puts plan for new kindergarten on hold

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Plans to add a kindergarten to St. Andrews Episcopal School remain on hold for now.

McLean & Howard, LLP attorney Jeff Howard represented St. Andrews School, which is located at 32nd Street and Wabash Avenue. He explained to the Board of Adjustment that it needed to reduce the required road width with a variance in order for the school to build a kindergarten.

Board members postponed the case and asked Howard to return with proof that the plan was safe.

St. Andrews has been in the neighborhood since 1957 and has about 450 students currently enrolled. The school started the project this summer and has won neighborhood support for the variance. It also has support for the project from the Central West Austin Neighborhood Planning Contact Team and has negotiated an agreement with the West 31st Street Creekside Neighborhood Association.

Now the school is addressing the need for a variance.

“There’s a kind of obscure code provision that requires a 40-foot pavement width for schools,” said Howard. “Not for anybody else — not a bank or a drive-thru, or perhaps something that might generate much more traffic.”

The site currently falls just short of the requirement, with the paved width of its street measuring 36.9 feet.

Board Member Melissa Hawthorne noted that part of the reason the requirement exists is to ensure that students get safely to school. She asked if there was a plan in place for the younger children who would now be attending the school.

Howard explained that while the site was not fully designed, the drop-off area for kindergarten students would be contained on-site.

Board Member Ricardo de Camps acknowledged that a portion of the code was written “well after these were platted, right of way was dedicated and layouts were done.” He also observed that the area contained obstacles to widening the road, such as trees. He said that he understood that section of the code was intended for newer streets and subdivisions.

“I get that,” said Board Member Bryan King. “But you don’t discount safety because it’s an older neighborhood.”

Chair Jeff Jack disagreed. He said he knew the code to be written to allow emergency services access to the school.

“I see it every day in my neighborhood — streets that are this wide, parked on both sides,” said Jack. “You cannot get down there with an ambulance or firetruck. You just can’t do it. I would hate for us to take an action and for something drastic to happen.”

Board members asked Howard to return with an illustration of turning radii for various vehicles, maximum occupancy limits for the proposed building and information about where “no parking” signs would be located. Jack additionally asked for information about emergency vehicle routing.

The 1.36-acre lot is made up of two tracts. The school has used one of the tracts as a parking lot for the past several years and recently acquired the other, smaller tract.

De Camps noted that if the school was building a day care, it would not have to meet the road width requirements.

“Safety is absolutely top on our list as well, I can assure you,” said Howard.

The Planning Commission and City Council have already approved the overall project.

 

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