By B.C. Manion
A proposed site in Lutz for a charter school for grades six through 12 has sparked controversy, and the location’s fate is at least a month from being resolved.
An appeal hearing scheduled for Sept. 14 will be pushed back to at least Oct. 12, and possibly until Nov. 2.
The attorney representing opponents to the school site has been sidelined by a surgery and has requested a delay until November.
Hillsborough County’s Land-Use Appeals Board automatically allows a one-month continuance, said Karen Matches, who provides administrative support for the board.
A longer delay is at the board’s discretion, so board members will consider that request at their 1 p.m. meeting on Sept. 14, when they were slated to hear the appeal.
A special use permit has been granted to allow Gates School to locate on a heavily forested, 62-acre tract near the intersection of US 41 and Sunset Lane.
However, that permit is being appealed by a group of neighbors who argue the school doesn’t fit in with the Lutz Community Plan. They also object to potential traffic and flood dangers, along with undesirable noise, litter and pollution from the project.
The school is being planned as an extension of Learning Gate Community School and would enable it to increase enrollment and extend its brand of learning through high school. It currently has children in kindergarten through 10th grade.
The new campus would accommodate up to 1,000 middle and high school students. The plan calls for several school buildings scattered about the campus for classrooms, a green house, administrative offices and an agricultural barn.
There would be two entrances to the school. One would be off of Sunset Lane, the other off of US 41.
In their appeal, opponents note the school lacks an easement off US 41 to get to the school site. Thus, they contend, it lacks the access to a four-lane road required for high schools in the Lutz Community Plan, which is incorporated as part of Hillsborough’s comprehensive plan.
Opponents also are concerned about the impacts the school will have on water supplies and wonder how its sewer needs would be handled.
At its first hearing on the case, the county’s Land Use Appeals Board can uphold the hearing officer’s decision or remand it to the hearing officer for additional consideration. The appeals board has the authority to rescind the permit if the case is brought to it a second time, but that action must be taken by a super majority of the board.
Anyone who wishes to challenge the appeals board’s action must take the issue to court.
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