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Forum held to discuss site for new elementary school

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By Graham Sweeney

More than a few feathers were ruffled among the announced crowd of over 100 concerned residents last Thursday as the Germantown Municipal School District hosted a public forum at Houston High School to discuss the four proposed campuses for a new elementary school.
Several in attendance spoke in favor of the 30-acre Warlick Property, just north of Poplar Ave., between Kimbrough and Oakleigh.
However, there was no clear consensus, as each site seemingly had detractors.
Using a rubric focused on seven key aspects of all 20 potential locations, the GMSD narrowed down the site search to four locations.
To take a public survey and weigh in on the sites, go to www.gmsdk12.org/LandOptions2016.aspx.

• Warlick
The Warlick Property is located on the north side of Poplar Ave. between Kimbrough and Oakleigh. It is east of Kimbrough, west of Forest Hill-Irene and south of Dogwood Road. The site is appraised for $1.4 million.
The site rated high in safety, location, accessibility, size and utility costs.
PROS:
Safety – Crimes reported in the area are minimal.
Location – Walkability to neighborhoods on the north side of Poplar Ave. Fits the criteria of a “neighborhood school.”
Accessibility – Located between two police districts.
Size – The 30.7-acre tract “appears useable.”
Utility – Utilities are readily available to tie into.
CONS:
Safety – Traffic direction of Poplar Ave. can be problematic.
Location – Proximity to Dogwood Elementary could add school related traffic in neighborhoods.
Accessibility – The high volume of traffic on Poplar Ave. would be a concern during arrival and dismissal times. Primary access from surrounding streets might be necessary.
Topography – Heavily forested property and dirt work operation “will be substantial” because of grade elevation change.

• Johnson Road Park
The Johnson Road Park Property is owned by Germantown and is on the east side of Johnson Road between Poplar Ave. and Dogwood Road, north of Germantown Baptist Church.
The 58.57-acre site rated high in safety, location, utilities and costs. The useable acreage is estimated at 20 acres.
PROS:
Safety – Crime in the area is minimal.
Safety – Cell phone tower present.
Location – Access to park and playing fields is a benefit.
Location – Access to Greenway bike trail.
Utilities – “Great” water pressure.
CONS:
Safety – Concerns with ponds close to school.
Accessibility – Access to Johnson Road would be problematic unless widened.
Topography – Several wells scattered throughout site that limit possible construction for school.
Size – Majority of acreage is in ponds and utilities.
Costs – Removal of trees could present additional costs up to $70,000.

Reaves
The Reaves Property is located at the corner of Forest Hill-Irene and Poplar Pike directly behind Millenium Furniture. The site is listed at $2.9 million.
The 36.4-acre tract rated very high in size and shape, scoring 10-of-10 possible points. It also fared well in location, topography and utilities.
PROS:
Size – Plenty of property to allow land, trees or city park to buffer the railroad tracks from the proposed school.
Utilities – Very nice site for elevated water tower.
Utilities – Very few stormwater issues.
Location – Property is adjacent to several retail outlets that would be supported by school traffic and possible recreation activities at night and on the weekends.
Location – Close to the Poplar Ave. corridor.
CONS:
Safety – Having the railroad so close to the school location is a concern for the safety of drivers and students who might walk toward the railroad tracks.
Accessibility – Lack of bike and pedestrian access.
Accessibility – Staging difficulties for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Accessibility – Daily traffic may interfere with school arrival and dismissals.
Cost – Pre-construction develop ability cost estimation is $500,000 to cut and move dirt and add utilities. This does not include road improvements.

Broer/Schaeffer
The adjacent properties of brother Joseph Schaeffer and sister Jill Broer are located at the corner of Forest Hill-Irene and Poplar Pike, just south of the Reaves Property. The site is not yet listed but both owners are willing sellers.
The 38.1-acre property rated very high in size and topography, but like the nearby Reaves site, lower in accessibility.
PROS:
Size – The site is large enough to provide potential space for a future expansion.
Topography – The existing pond and trees would be a nice entrance feature and would not require removal.
Location – Good distance from existing schools, preventing traffic congestion.
Location – Opportunity to require future developments to the north to have pedestrian and bike access to the school.
Utilities – No issues with storm water drainage.
CONS:
Accessibility – Proximity to railroad crossing could contribute to delayed response times from fire and police departments.
Accessibility – Road improvements would be necessary to facilitate safe access from Forest Hill.
Accessibility – Could cause traffic congestion on Poplar Pike.
Safety – Having the railroad so close to the school location is a concern for the safety of drivers and students who might walk toward the railroad tracks.
Cost – A rough estimate of pre-construction site development is $300,000.