Worried parents in the area of the new high school in north Orem want other avenues explored before the school is constructed on property between 1600 and 1200 North and Main Street and 400 East.
The proposed access onto Main Street is too close to the Windsor Elementary School, threatens their children's safety as they walk to and from school, and will seriously increase traffic levels with a load of reckless teenage drivers, residents told the Orem Planning Commission this week.The residents launched a major attack on the request by Alpine School District for a conditional-use permit, saying danger to their youngsters is their primary concern.
They also complained that the single-story high school designed for 2,000 students will be too small and inadequate for the area's needs before it's even built.
"I say Main Street is the first option to cross off the list," said Richard Shipp. "If even one child is at risk, it's too much. And it's virtually everyone connected to Windsor Elementary that says no."
Residents pointed out that the 41-acre site for the school is not large enough to accommodate expansion and parking for major events.
They presented a petition signed by 312 residents opposing the site and put 5-year-old Jessica Jarvis at the microphone to read her letter that said, "It won't be safe for us."
Their opposition bought them three weeks while Alpine School District officials search for another way to provide two access points to the property and lose valuable time getting the school into place.
"This is virtually the only site suitable," said Jack McKelvy, business administrator for the district.
"This is going to hurt us," he said later. "We can't afford to lose three weeks."
McKelvy said site development starts years ahead of the actual purchase. The property - which has belonged to the LDS Church and been used as a fruit orchard - is the only site in north Orem big enough for a high school.
"The church was reluctant to sell but conceded due to the needs of the children," said McKelvy.
A compromise purchase agreement hammered out between the district and the church provides for the school to be built on the interior of the 80-acre plot. Orchards around the school will be maintained.
An LDS Seminary building will be located in the southwest corner.
District planners had proposed a new road to be known as 1450 North to be constructed across the top of the school site from 400 East to Main Street.
Six hundred parking stalls are included as well as a football stadium, a baseball diamond, a softball diamond, eight tennis courts and the school building, which can be expanded to handle 2,500 students when needed.
Orem City Engineer Ed Gifford said Main Street is built to serve as a collector road, as is 400 East. He said that with the high school vehicles, traffic will increase by 2,083 average daily trips. That is only about 700 more than the increase if the parcel were to develop residentially.
He said peak hours for the high school would not coincide with the peak times at Windsor.
Residents discounted his information about the starting and ending times and also called for more current traffic count figures. They estimated the additional trips each day would be closer to 4,000 to 8,000.
In their motion to continue the item, commissioners included a call for a new traffic study, which will cost the district $3,000-$5,000.
Residents offered a variety of "solutions" to the district, such as providing access to the high school from 1600 North either along the North Union Canal bank or to the east side of the LDS Stake Center.
They suggested the seminary program be moved to the church "since it isn't used during the day."
"Some of these suggestions refer to a higher power than we," said Planning Commission Chairman Berdean Jarman.
Commissioner Lisa Deason explained that many of the decisions are out of the hands of the commission and the request for a conditional-use permit is only the first step for gaining site approval for the school.
Commissioner Luann March suggested exploring other avenues for the access.
"You're wrong to think we're not empathetic," Commissioner Ray Nelson said. "I wish the solution were as simple as some have said. I would that we could put it (the high school) somewhere else, but that's not even a consideration."