The Riverside Local School District Board of Education voted Tuesday, October 3 at a Special Meeting to file an appeal in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas regarding the Concord Township Board of Zoning Appeal’s decision to deny a conditional use permit for the new elementary school planned on State Route 608.
The School District did its due diligence before – and after – purchasing the land to comply with zoning guidelines to build a new elementary school. The property is already zoned R-4 Residential, which allows for the construction of a school building. Furthermore, In August 2016 and February of 2017, Riverside Local School District’s Superintendent James Kalis sent e-mails to Concord Township yielding to the Township Trustees direction as the District did not want to be in a position where the property was purchased only to find later that the District could not get approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Concord Township responded that the District must adhere to conditional use permit requirements under section 13.10, which the District had done or is in the process of doing. The District also met with Concord Township officials - as well as county officials - on April 3 at a public meeting and there were no concerns expressed over building a new elementary school on the property.
On September 13, the Concord Township Board of Zoning Appeals denied the District’s conditional use permit. In addition, the township sent a letter stating they advised the District not to purchase the land.
“Frankly, Concord Township’s Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision came as a surprise to all of us,” Kalis said. “We were led to believe we were following all the appropriate guidelines and had discussions with the Township on many occasions before purchasing the land. There had been no objections until recently. Furthermore, the Board and administrators were led to believe that we had to own the property first in order to apply for a conditional use permit.”
Concord Township does not allow an appeals process for zoning decisions through the township. Litigation is the District’s only option.
“Our Board did not want to go that route, we wanted to work together,” Kalis said. “We hope for a resolution and we want to build on the proposed site while being mindful of the neighbors near the proposed property.
“We don’t want to be an adversary to the residents of that location. Let us build the proposed elementary school and serve the children of this District. There is a reason we picked Concord Township. It’s beautiful and it’s a great township. We want to build a school and service children there.”
The District held dozens of public community meetings prior to the Bond Levy in 2016. On Feb 26, 2016 and March 7, 2016 Superintendent Kalis sent an e-mail to all elected officials within the District including Concord Township Trustees and administrators inviting them to a meeting to discuss the District’s Facilities Plan. No one from Concord Township responded to the e-mail or attended any of these meetings. Representatives from Painesville and Leroy Townships responded and attended some of these meetings.
It should also be noted that the Bond Levy passed in seven out of the nine precincts in Concord Township.
Prior to the District purchasing the land on State Route 608, dozens of other locations in Concord Township and Leroy Township were considered. The owners of said locations were either not interested in selling or the property was costly. Several other locations underwent various testing, however those results were not as favorable as the current proposed location.
The proposed location is approximately 14 acres, relatively flat and was less expensive than other properties considered. Water is available and there was very little wetland. The owner was willing to sell at a reasonable price and it’s in the southeast portion of the District, where a school was needed.
The District conducted a wetland delineation on the property in December of 2016, an environmental site assessment in January of 2017, a preliminary geotechnical subsurface exploration in January of 2017, a waste water treatment consultation in February of 2017 and a traffic impact analysis in August of 2017. In addition, the District conducted a final geotechnical subsurface investigation and have been in contact with the Ohio EPA, ODOT and US Fish and Wildlife.
“We needed a location in the Southeast portion of our District to serve our students from Concord and Leroy Townships and this location fulfills that need,” Kalis said.
The District is hoping to come to a quick resolution regarding this issue.
“We cannot delay this project. Construction costs can increase significantly every year, according to our Bond Counsel. The longer this project is delayed, the more it will cost to construct the building.”
CLICK HERE to see a PowerPoint presentation with background information, sequence of events, notable documentation and correspondence between the District and Concord Township throughout the past year and a half regarding the proposed site.
CLICK HERE for more information about the proposed Sewage Treatment System.