Charter school on Sunlake scrapped

 

When a proposed charter school at the southwest corner of Lutz Lake Fern Road and Sunlake Boulevard was announced, opponents rallied against the proposal.

They said the proposed school was too big for the location.

They predicted it would ruin the quiet enjoyment of their residential properties.

They complained about the traffic the school would generate and the ensuing hazards, and they also objected to the noise and fumes the school would bring.

Potential flooding was another big issue.

Joe and Pat Serio, would-be next-door neighbors to a proposed charter school in Lutz, are delighted that plans for building the school have been dropped. (File Photo)

Joe and Pat Serio, would-be next-door neighbors to a proposed charter school in Lutz, are delighted that plans for building the school have been dropped.
(File Photo)

But county planners gave the proposal a recommendation for approval, provided the school complied with a lengthy list of conditions.

A county hearing officer agreed with county staff and gave the project his stamp of approval.

Opponents felt dejected.

But now, the charter school plans at that location are being scrapped.

The applicant for the special use permit was Charter Schools Inc., of Boca Raton, and the school operator would have been Charter Schools Association of Coral Gables.

The school would have been for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and would have been built in two phases.

But, those plans have been dropped.

It turns out that the applicants decided to drop the plan for a number of reasons, including the fact that it costs too much to meet the requirements, their representative, Michael Horner, said in a letter to the Lutz Citizens Coalition.

The coalition joined area residents to fight the proposed school.

The coalition doesn’t oppose schools — but it objects to attempts to squeeze schools onto sites that are two small, or that would pose traffic hazards or other concerns, said Mike White, who is the founder and president of the citizens’ group.

White learned that the school would be scrapped through Horner’s letter.

White shared Horner’s letter in an email to coalition members and other interested parties.

In part, Horner wrote: “Mike (White), I was informed by a county staff member this morning that there are still discussions and meetings ongoing regarding this prior approved charter school and I thought I should respond.

“Our clients have decided to drop this charter school for a number of reasons, not the least of which is land cost and significant costs for the required roadway improvements which were extremely high.

“This parcel will now most likely be pursued for residential use and the current owners are exploring those opportunities given the unreasonable low-density classification on site compared to surrounding parcels.

“While a charter school may be pursued in this general area on another parcel, it will not be on this corner.”

In passing along Horner’s letter, White also noted, “I think I would call this a victory for the Sunlake community.”

White believes the work the community did to push for conditions to address the school’s impacts resulted in the applicants pulling out.

“We knew that it was going to be very costly,” White said.

Pat Serio and her husband, Joe, who live next to the proposed school site, agreed with that assessment.

They are grateful to the people who collected petitions, attended public meetings and voiced their concerns about the project.

“We’re ecstatic,” Joe Serio said.

“Needless to say, we’re very pleased that it’s not happening,” Pat Serio added.

“There are a lot of other things that would be more suitable (on that property),” she said.

Published September 9, 2015

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