CHIPLEY — The Washington County Planning Commission approved the initial plans for the new Kate M. Smith Elementary School Tuesday night.
That recommendation will move forward to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval on July 25.
“This is a very large project,” Dan Rutherford of CRA Architect told the commissioners. “The drawings don’t do it justice.” Rutherford said the school building is 600 feet long and he explained that bus traffic will be routed to Brickyard Road while parental traffic will access the new school from South Boulevard.
County Planner Mike DeRuntz told the commissioners that the property on which the school is to be build lies in both the city limits of Chipley and in the county.
Commissioner Jim Ackerman asked if the construction would result in more water running off the property and across Brickyard Road. “No,” Rutherford said, “the state standards do not allow for any more run-off after a construction project than was there before.”
“Have we considered that we are moving traffic off of city streets and onto two county roads? Will this be an increase in traffic?” asked Commissioner Roger Hagan.
Rutherford explained that the bus entranceway will be designed to correspond with the existing entranceway at Roulhac Middle School.
“Actually this should decrease the bus traffic on Brickyard that you already have there because of the schools,” Planning Commissioner Mike Park said.
Park is the director of transportation and maintenance for the school district and sits on the planning commission on the school board’s behalf. Park abstained from voting on the proposed construction.
“We’re very excited about the project,” Park said.
“Your concerns are important to us,” Superintendent Joe Taylor told the commissioners. “This project involves 153,000 square-feet of construction, and we want you to be aware of what we’re doing.”
“We appreciate any feedback you have for us,” Taylor said.
The commissioners also heard a report from DeRuntz on the joint meeting between planning commission and the county commissioners.
DeRuntz presented the Future Land Use Map to the county commissioners on June 20, and they had a couple of concerns which he returned to the planning commission.
The county commissioners asked that lakes 20 acres in size or larger be identified as conservation on the land use map, and they also recommended extending the commercial zone south of the intersection of Highway 77 and Interstate 10 all the way south to Peel Road.
Resident John Foster said he was concerned about the prospect of making all the property commercial since there are a number of homes in that area.
“I don’t mind you doubling the worth of my property, though,” he said.