Town council OKd the site plan of Summerfield Charter Academy on Feb. 12.
By Thomas Lester
SUMMERFIELD - With plans to open the doors for its first students in August, Summerfield Charter Academy needed certain things to happen in a relatively short time frame.
One of those things happened during the Feb. 12 meeting of Summerfield Town Council, as the school's site plan was approved, contingent on compliance with lawful N.C. Department of Transportation requirements, by a unanimous vote. NCDOT has the site access study but had not had the opportunity to approve it prior to the council meeting.
SCA can now seek full approval from the State Board of Education in March. It had received provisional approval last year.
Normally the charge of the zoning board, this site plan came before council because of a 3-2 vote for approval by the zoning board, which meant it passed but fell short of the required four votes and therefore sent to council for review. In introducing the agenda item, Mayor Mark Brown remarked that council had not had a site plan review in many years.
National Heritage Academies, the educational management organization that will operate Summerfield Charter Academy, has plans for 19.02 acres just north of the northern end of Summerfield Road at U.S. 220. Plans call for a two-story, 47,000-square foot school that can, at full capacity, accommodate 735 students and 60 staff members with a traffic staging area with enough space to queue 161 vehicles off of U.S. 220. Town Planner Carol Carter noted that every aspect of the site plan is compliant with Summerfield's zoning ordinance.
In stating the case, National Heritage Academies' Bill Davis noted a number of previous meetings with town officials which resulted in modifications to the plan.
"Your process is working; the town has had a major impact on the project so far," Davis said.
The building, itself, would be constructed with brick with cement panels for a traditional appearance. On the side of the building facing U.S. 220, a gable is included in the design elements.
NHA took lessons learned from another of its schools, nearby Greensboro Academy, in taking traffic into consideration. A three-part plan to handle traffic as U.S. 220 evolves was introduced. Once left turn access is cut off, NHA is proposing a signal to facilitate turns for northbound traffic that will have to turn into the southbound lanes to reach the school.
Any improvements that have to take place on-site or off-site that relate to U.S. 220 would be the responsibility of National Heritage Academies. A number of improvements, such as deceleration lanes, turn lanes, secondary access and signals, have been proposed in the site access study for NCDOT approval.
The school's ability to queue a high volume of traffic off of U.S. 220 alleviated some concerns.
"In passing these other schools, the traffic is backed down the highway," noted John Wray Jr. "This shows the parking lot and a traffic area and a place you can stage cars to get them off (U.S.) 220. It's going to be four lanes and there will be a lot of traffic. This will get traffic off the road and I'm pleased to see that."
Alicia Flowers said she's pleased that a charter school will be coming to Summerfield and said the traffic around Greensboro Academy isn't as bad as some make it out to be.
"I pass the other school every morning. A lot of people have objections to traffic. It adds maybe 10 more minutes on my trip and I make sure I leave 10 minutes earlier," Flowers said. "People let traffic in and out. I've never seen an issue with traffic and it's one lane. Once the road is widened, it will be better."