More in Schools:
By Mike Hazlip—
Citrus Heights planning commissioners last week voted unanimously to approve plans for a new charter school at Old Auburn and Antelope Road, despite concern about additional traffic in the neighboring residential area.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the project, after city staff and representatives from American River Collegiate Academy presented revised plans to the commission. Vice Chair Marcelle Flowers was absent, and Commissioner Andrew Van Duker asked to be recused due to the school being a client of his employer’s printing business.
The plans included an in-depth analysis of traffic patterns and street improvements. John Gard, of the Roseville-based transportation consulting firm Fehr & Peers, showed an anticipated traffic increase of over 500 vehicles over the next few years, along with some mitigation measures.
The majority of traffic is anticipated to occur during peak morning and afternoon hours, and plans were presented for staggered start and end times. Utilizing an agreement with the adjacent Antelope Road Christian Fellowship, traffic for the school would enter and exit onto Wonder Street, rather than directly onto Antelope Road.
Among the planned improvements outlined in the presentation was a new signaled intersection at Wonder Street and Antelope Road. Wonder Street currently ends with a stop sign at Antelope Road and cross traffic is uncontrolled between Old Auburn Boulevard and Sunrise Boulevard.
Traffic exiting the California Family Fitness-anchored shopping center will be right turn only. The new intersection is slated to include a u-turn lane for westbound traffic, according to plans.
Real estate attorney David Temblador described the project to commissioners as a “purpose-built campus,” saying most charter schools use existing office buildings. Temblador said the school has “pre-funded” the traffic monitoring required to study traffic patterns in the area.
“As part of the project conditions, Rocklin Academy has committed to providing a deposit to the city in the amount of $25,000,” he said. “They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.”
The school will be for kindergarten through sixth grade students and will have a 25,000-square-foot, two-story building with 22 classrooms along with administrative offices. A 5,500-square-foot multi-purpose building is also planned for the site.
The two-story building is planned along the eastern border of the site with broadcast speakers facing west toward Antelope Road to lessen the sound of the school bell and announcements.
Public comment was largely in favor of approving the project, with several residents saying they desire an alternative education for their children that is closer than existing charter schools.
One resident spoke against the project, who said he lives on Wonder Street and was “appalled” at the projected increase in traffic.
“Adding an additional 730 drivers around my house to be able to pull into a school, I’m sure [the traffic consultant] doesn’t want 730, or even 500 cars in front of his house,” he said. He also said the project was “absolutely incorrect” for a residential zoned area and called for the commission to reject the proposal.
Commission Chair Tom Scheeler said public perception of increased traffic based on the presentation is often exaggerated.
“My experience on projects has been that a well-designed project, while on paper it may look like a potential disaster for the local people closer to the project… many times it proves to be an unwarranted concern, and I hope that’s the case here.”
Scheeler said he trusts the representatives from the school who said they are able to move traffic through the site efficiently, based on experience at the academy’s other campuses.
The publicly funded charter school is part of the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools, which includes Rocklin Academy, Rocklin Academy Gateway, Rocklin Academy Preschool, and Western Sierra Collegiate Academy.
The charter school is currently using classroom facilities at the Temple Or Rishon in Orangevale near Hazel and Oak avenues, after school officials couldn’t find a suitable existing facility within Citrus Heights.
Plans for the school’s new facility in Citrus Heights were formally submitted to the city last year, with modified plans resubmitted in March. Numerous modifications and clarifications have been made regarding building height, landscaping, traffic flow, and other items.
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