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Home » Archives » July 2005 » SJI School District on Ball Fields & Road Access

[Previous entry: "On Building A Sports Complex and Fields"] [Next entry: "An Open Letter to Bill Weissinger"]

07/15/2005: "SJI School District on Ball Fields & Road Access"

A primary mission of the San Juan Island School District is to provide excellence in teaching and learning, and to provide outstanding co-curricular experiences for our students. We have written several articles outlining the District's current choices and challenges relative to shrinking operational budgets, and other budget challenges such as high cost special education placements. We have acted responsibly to make the difficult program cuts necessary to ensure a balanced operating budget for the 2005-06 school year.

A secondary mission of the District has been to provide the only public athletic field facilities available to this community. In fact, the School District is the primary provider of such facilities as described in the Town's comprehensive plan. The voters generously approved the capital bond in 1997 providing the 30 acres at Carter/Larson for a future school building, and for the developing of additional community athletic fields. We continue to be committed to making this land available for community field development.

Some have raised the possibility of selling the property to solve the District's financial challenges. No real solution here by state law capital assets cannot be used to support operational budgets. And frankly, it would be imprudent to sell off the District's only capital asset for future growth or expansion. School enrollment rises and falls. We've only owned the land for 8 years and could never replace it once sold.

At our school board forum on June 16th two clear messages were heard from those in attendance. The first message was a broad consensus that the fields are needed and should be developed. The second was deep concern on the part of each neighborhood that could be impacted by traffic, noise, drainage, etc. Many suggested possible access to the property through neighborhoods other than their own. Several pointed to the possibility of access through the Town and Country Trailer Park that may never be realized (it is private property and access is subject to continuing negotiations with the owner).

These are the facts: Access can be available through Carter Avenue that dead ends at the property. Access can be available through Beaverton Valley/Larson entering the property near Fox Hall. An emergency access can be located at Coho Street in the Village Grove neighborhood. And, at some future date, there may be a possibility of access through the trailer park subject to negotiations with the owner. There are no other current options for access.

Accessing the property through the available options above will impact one or more neighborhoods. It is most likely that the board will submit a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application with multiple access points to the property. Clearly, concerns about street improvements, drainage, noise, etc. must be addressed through the CUP process. The CUP process provides for public hearing(s) and opportunities for the Town administration and Town Council to address concerns related to the development. It is the desire of the School Board and District Administration to use this public process to deal with the issues raised by the neighborhoods potentially impacted by the project.

In the meantime, there is some urgency to begin the project by authorizing some clearing, grading, and accessing of fill material for the parking lots and roads to be located on the property. The fill material, a donation from LaFarge, will only be available for a few more months. It would be incredibly short sighted to not take advantage of this donation. A clearing and grading permit, authorized by the Town, would provide temporary access to the property for the purposes of clearing the fields, and hauling in material to develop the parking lot and roads.

At our school board meeting on June 29th, a discussion item on the agenda was the feasibility of proceeding with a clearing and grading permit prior to obtaining the CUP. It is clear that even temporary access for clearing and grading prior to public hearings and approval of a CUP is considered by the neighborhoods to be a threat. Consequently the board has delayed taking any action on the clearing and grading permit to allow time for community consensus about temporary access and/or CUP approval.

The Board is open to recommendations from Mr. Penwell's committee or any other person(s) working constructively toward resolving concerns, but cautions that any recommendations must have the consensus of the stakeholders involved. Moving forward on this project has, in part, been inhibited by the confrontation of strong personalities and their positions on all sides of the issue. If the consensus is that the "fields should be developed," we hope that all will work cooperatively together to resolve issues and keep the end in mind.

The School Board is appreciative of Don Galt's leadership in securing donations of money, time and materials to develop the fields. While the school district is delighted to make the land available, we have no funds to add to this project. The Board is also appreciative of Island Rec's offer to administer the use and ongoing maintenance of the fields "pending appropriate financing." The community must be aware that Island Rec. will need additional financial support to operate these fields. This project can be successful through the vision and cooperation of this community. We understand the potential impacts the field development will have upon the neighborhoods and will continue to work cooperatively to mitigate these impacts. The School District will continue to be a supportive partner to make this project possible and will use the appropriate public processes to acquire permits for the project.

Boyd Pratt, School Board Chair
Michael Soltman, Superintendent

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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