Road to nowhere

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Fairfield County is requiring Pickerington Local Schools to build a road connecting its Tollgate schools’ site with a subdivision that currently doesn’t exist.

The road would provide emergency access and allow parents in the future Eastern Lakes subdivision to drive their children to school without entering Refugee Road, Pickerington Schools Assistant Superintendent Lewis Stemen told the Pickerington Board of Education at its June 29 meeting.

Eastern Lakes property owner George Sicaras from H&G Development LLC said the subdivision would not be developed until the housing market begins to revive.

"We don’t have any buyers in line, but it is going to get better," said Sicaras.

Board member Lisa Reade questioned the need for emergency access through Eastern Lakes because the school site will have two entrances and a bus loop encircling the buildings.

Reade agreed that children should not walk along Refugee Road, but that a bike path for walkers would be a better option than a road.

"It (an access road) is a good idea until a kid gets hit by a car," Reade said. "It’s about safety above access."

Tussing Elementary is the only school in the district with a back road into a subdivision. A barrier blocks the road from non-emergency vehicles, Stemen said.

Although the road behind Tussing receives little use, a protective fence surrounds the playground. The fence was a "huge expense." Reade said. "I would rather spend our money buying textbooks for kids."

The Fairfield County Regional Planning Commission (FCRPC) requires neighboring subdivisions to build roads connecting to each other. In technical terms, the school site is considered a subdivision, FCRPC Assistant Director Holly Mattei said.

A cul-de-sac from Eastern Lakes onto the school grounds would be an acceptable alternative to building the road, Mattei said. It would allow parents to drive their children close to the school without exiting onto Refugee Road.

Paying for a cul-de-sac when the schools already provide drop-off areas is "very extraneous," Reade said.

The school district may request a variance from FCRPC to substitute a bike path for a road, however the request may be denied, Mattei said.

"We look at variances in very much detail," Mattei said. "It is not something that is granted easily."

The school district would pay for the portion of the road on their property once the subdivision is developed, according to Violet Township Director of Operations William Yaple.

The school district will pay to extend the sewer line to the Tollgate site and Eastern Lakes will eventually repay the their share, Sicaras said.

In addition to the road requirement from FCRPC, Violet Township and the Fairfield County Engineer’s office have jurisdiction over the Tollgate site resulting in a "whole variety of opinions," Stemen said.

As opposed to Pickerington City Council, which governs the site of the future elementary near Sycamore Creek, the Tollgate site has "multiple layers," Stemen said.

"It should be real interesting. We are trying to build something everyone will be proud of," Stemen said. "So far, knock on wood, we are good on deadlines. The goal is to have all of the new schools ready to open with the start of the 2009-10 school year. We’re going to get it done and meet all the regulations."

Violet Township will require the school system to remove all excess dirt from the Tollgate site after the schools are built.

After completion of Pickerington North High School, a mound comprised of 50,000 yards of dirt remained on the site. – a "huge nuisance to us," Yaple said. "It is not mowable, it is just a huge pile of dirt."

Although the dirt pile "in the short term is not that beautiful," the dirt will be needed for an expansion of Pickerington North, Reade said.

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