Cuyahoga Falls -- The Planning Commission on Sept. 7 voted 5-0 in favor of the Woodridge Local School District's plan to construct a new elementary school building and a new high school gymnasium.
The new elementary building will encompass 84,047 square feet and house 900 students in Pre-K through fifth grade on vacant property between State and Quick roads. The new 1,000-seat, 19,000 square foot gymnasium will be set up on the north side of the existing high school building on Quick Road.
These two projects, along with the recent replacement of the middle school roof, are being funded by a $33.5 million bond issue that was approved by voters in November 2015. Woodridge Local District Superintendent Walter Davis said clearing of the site for the elementary school will begin in October, with major construction starting in April 2017 and the building slated to open for the 2018-19 school year.
The new elementary building will include a media center, an intermediate school gymnasium, primary school gymnasium, as well as areas for student dining, food preparation, shipping-receiving and maintenance. There will be two two-story classroom wings. The primary entrance to the building will be from Quick Road and a private access road will run between State Road and Quick Road. Davis noted that this access street will be closed off during the school day so it is not used as a cut-through and because a playground will be situated near the access road.
The new gymnasium at the high school building will be next to the baseball field. An additional 140 parking spaces will be added to the north side of the building.
For the elementary school building, a new center turn lane will be installed along State Road, an action that requires widening about 400 feet of the road, according to the planning department. Derek Mast with Braun and Steidl Architects said a traffic study determined that the road needed to be widened.
A detention basin for stormwater drainage is planned next to State Road for the new elementary school. The high school gymnasium will use underground storage and existing high school storm basins. Both the city engineering department and Summit Soil and Water Conservation District need to review the stormwater pollution prevention plans.
"We're really excited about this project," said Davis.
Once the Pre-K through 5 building is finished, all school district buildings will be located within the city of Cuyahoga Falls, said Davis. Currently the intermediate school is at 1930 Bronson Ave. in Peninsula.
He added officials will "maintain our distinct separation between primary and intermediate grades." The primary students will be in one section of the building, while the intermediate students will be in a different area.
The current gymnasium at the high school seats a little under 600 students. The high school enrollment is 700 students, which means the freshmen typically sit on the floor for assemblies and programs, according to Davis.
After the meeting, Davis told the Falls News-Press that the current gymnasium will continue to be used as an auxiliary facility.
The commission approved the project with recommendations that the district adopt all traffic impact analysis recommendations, stormwater plan recommendations, install the left-turn lane on State Road, implement a streetscape plan allowing for better pedestrian access and comply with city standards on the private access road.
The Planning Commission leader praised the plans for the project.
"I'm thrilled to see it's happening," said Planning Commission Chair Stacy Walter. "It's wonderful for the community."
Some residents who live near the campus raised concerns about the project.
Jeff Mandusky, who lives next door to the high school on the north side and the west end of the building, said he and his wife are concerned about water run-off from the high school parking lot, as well as the run-off of gasoline, antifreeze and other chemicals from vehicles in the lot.
"It has damaged our property and it has upset us greatly /" said Mandusky.
"This particular system / has a stone bottom which helps filter the water coming through," said Thomas Weiss, civil engineer with Lewis Land Professionals Inc., a civil engineering firm that is working on the project. "The discharge requirements that we follow now do remove 90 percent of total suspended solids / it should reduce all of that."
Mandusky suggested a fence be installed to prevent trash and other debris from being blown from the high school land onto his property.
Cuyahoga Falls Planning Director Fred Guerra said while the issue can be evaluated, the district is not required to put up a fence.
Bill Fischer of Fischer's Foreign Cars at 4520 State Road, said he has had flooding problems on his property and was concerned about how the new development would affect his land. He said 4 inches of rain "floods us out."
Weiss said the stormwater system for the area handles the "discharge all the way through the 100-year storm, which is approximately 6 1/2 inches [of rain]."
Planning Commission member Russ Iona said he heard from residents who live on Woodridge Drive, Charlene and Meadow Lane (near the high school) who are experiencing flooding problems. Iona said there are two culverts on Woodridge High School property that point toward Woodridge Drive. One of the culverts that is in a tree line, Iona said, "points directly to Woodridge Drive. That water can only go one place, to Woodridge Drive and it's coming from Woodridge schools." Another culvert from the high school parking lot points to Woodridge Drive, according to Iona.
Iona said he's had five residents from this area tell him "the stormwater issue from Woodridge is ruining the value of their properties /"
While saying he favored the project, Iona said he felt that stormwater issues needed to be addressed.
Regarding the high school parking lot, Davis said, "my understanding is that is graded to drains that are in the middle of the parking lot, so whether it's draining off to Woodridge Drive from our parking lot, I would question that."
Davis also noted the city engineering department recently contacted him for permission to do survey work on district property along Woodridge Drive and behind the high school to "address the very issues [Iona is] referring to."
"I would argue that those are separate issues from this project," added Davis.
Iona said the new project prompted residents to raise concerns about other stormwater issues.
Weiss emphasized that the water from the new elementary school building will never reach the high school side. The high school side would drain to the west and the elementary school side to the east.
Guerra said the city engineer will review the stormwater concerns.