Big Walnut schools taking shape


The Big Walnut Local School District is getting close to starting construction on a new elementary school after three public hearings with the Village of Sunbury’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

If the district’s plans are approved by the village, then building the 500-student elementary school would begin next month and open in 2020, and a 1,300-student high school beginning construction the following year to open in 2022. There would also be athletic fields built.

One such hearing was on Jan. 7, with the minutes of the report stating that the district is looking to rezone five properties that are not currently zoned to Agriculture use; proposing a conditional use with athletics/sports facilities and five different variances.

The variances are for lot frontage, building height, parking space width, parking island maximum area, roof type and natural material.

Chris Dunford, of VSWC Architects, said the variances include a 50-foot height for the high school, 9-foot-wide parking spaces, and more economical architectural metals. Dunford also said the football stadium, 2,500 feet away from the end of an extended Miller Drive, will use LED lighting, which won’t be as bright in the sky as traditional lighting.

Megan Cyr of Kleingers Group said a traffic impact study was done, and roadway improvements would not be needed until 2022. Those improvements would be a 775-foot westbound right turn lane from Cherry Street onto North Miller Drive, and a police officer during arrival (7-7:30 a.m.) and dismissal (2:15-2:45 p.m.) at North Miller and Fayburrow.

Parents dropping off and picking up students, as well as high school students, would enter and exit off of North Miller; while staff and buses would enter and exit off of Kintner Parkway.

Village Solicitor Dave Brehm said a connection from Miller Drive and Route 61 is in Sunbury’s future comprehensive plan and is development driven.

Big Walnut Facilities Director Doug Swartz said the district has dedicated a 100-foot public driveway connecting Miller and Kintner, and will grant the easement to the village. The district can gate off access to the school as needed.

A resident asked if the existing athletic fields could be used instead of building new ones. Swartz said it would cost too much to transport students from the new high school to the existing fields.

“We want to be good stewards of the money the taxpayers have given us, and as we grow, we will use the fields we have now as well as the new fields,” said Superintendent Angie Pollock. “We are also allowing the residents to use these facilities now (basketball courts, tracks, tennis courts) and being good neighbors to all our community.”

Swartz, in an email sent to The Sunbury News following the hearings, explained the status of the projects with the village and what happens next.

“Since receiving public approval of a Bond issue in Nov. 2017 to provide a New Elementary and HS for Big Walnut Local Schools, the District has been working in partnership with multiple community stakeholders — including our Facilities Committee, our design teams, and the Village of Sunbury (VOS) — in regards to the design and planning of the new school facilities and the associated 103-acre parcel located on the north side of Sunbury,” Swartz wrote.

“In compliance with the Village of Sunbury Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) protocols, the District has submitted both a Rezoning application as well as a Zoning Certificate for review and approval,” he continued. “The Rezoning application, with a requested zoning type of A1 – Agricultural, will bring the proposed school site into alignment with the VOS zoning requirements and will afford the District maximum flexibility for long-term use of the property as a public school. The Zoning certificate essentially serves as approval from the VOS to commence construction on the site work for our schools.

“In alignment with the current VOS meeting schedule, the District is forecasting a start of construction in the form of an early site package (site clearing/grading, storm water management & water lines) for mid-March, 2019. A public ground breaking ceremony is in the works for late April/May, 2019.”

By Gary Budzak

[email protected]

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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