Hazardous materials storage, parking hold up school site decision


February 08, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The use and storage of potentially hazardous material, the lack of on-site parking, truck traffic, the lack of sidewalks and local aesthetics kept the El Centro City Council from taking action on the possibility of locating an alternative school site on Ross Road.

The city Planning Commission had previously rejected the school's siting on a 3-3 vote, with one absence.

A public hearing on the matter Wednesday was continued to the next council meeting.

The proposed school would be at 203 E. Ross Road. It would replace an existing school directly across the street from the school being proposed by the Imperial County Office of Education.

Several school officials spoke in favor of the school, while a business owner and city staff spoke against it.

Lynne Wegener, an independent studies alternative school teacher, said with the present school located along the same street the new facility would actually improve student safety.


"As far as it being an industrial area, that's where we are right now," she said.

Wegener said the location is a good one because it helps instill a work ethic in the school's students as they see people arriving at work and working in the area daily.

On the issue of aesthetics, Wegener said the new school might set the example for others to improve the looks of their properties.

Meanwhile Toyotalift Inc. owner Steve Hansen said the approval of the school could result in the closure of his business because of legal limitations on the use and storage of certain material considered hazardous. He said the materials cannot legally be stored within 600 feet of a school, and that his business is adjacent to the potential school site, to the south and east of the lot.

He said the school could have an effect on his business plan.

"We're looking to further develop our property," he said.

Despite there being numerous concerns with the site, ICOE alternative education director David Schoneman said school officials will work with the city to ameliorate any and all concerns.

City Council members had their doubts, however.

Councilman Larry Grogan said it would be difficult for him to go against the recommendation of city staff to reject the school.

"Once we start going against staff recommendations, I get nervous," he said.

Councilman Jack Dunnam said he is concerned about the amount of truck traffic from a local vegetable cooler that results when produce is being harvested.

Councilman Jack Terrazas said he was concerned with student safety when they walk the area with its lack of sidewalks.

In the end, Mayor Cheryl Walker said there must be closure on the issues of additional on-site parking, the safety of students who walk in the area and the use and storage of potentially hazardous materials at adjacent businesses.

In other business, the City Council:

l adopted a policy statement on how to "cut and plug" broken private water lines that undermine, impede or otherwise cause a hazard in the public right-of-way;

l amended the city's general plan to include a comprehensive bicycle master plan to the city's circulation element. The plan is more comprehensive than what the city has.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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