Learning Gate Community School has received Hillsborough County’s blessing to locate its classes for seventh- and eighth-graders in the former Hand-in-Hand Academy building near downtown Lutz.
Land use hearing officer James Scarola approved Learning Gate’s request to use the location at 207 Lutz Lake Fern Road for its middle school-level students. The approval, issued June 29, limits the enrollment, however, at the Lutz Lake Fern Road location to 205 students.
That’s 45 fewer students than the school initially requested. The school agreed to reduce its request after Mike White, president of the Lutz Citizens Coalition, objected to the higher number.
At a June 2 public hearing, White told Scarola the site was not conducive for that many students. White also said the community has no problems with the school, simply with the proposed enrollment, according to the hearing officer’s June 29 ruling.
During a recent interview, White said the school also agreed to sign a private agreement with the Lutz Citizens Coalition pledging that it would never ask for a variance to allow more students at the site.
The 4-acre site previously had been approved for 175 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Of those, up to 85 were allowed to be in child care.
The property, which is included in Hillsborough County’s Landmark and Historic Archeological Resources Inventory, contains a church that was built in the 1940s and two educational buildings that were constructed during the 1960s.
No additions or expansions are requested in Learning Gate’s application.
The county’s transportation department reviewed the request and concluded the school will not impact traffic on nearby roads. The school is expected to generate 225 trips during the peak morning hours, and 151 during the afternoon peak hours.
However, the transportation department has determined that a detailed traffic study will be needed and it may show the need for such improvements as paving, widening and construction of a turn lane.
Learning Gate is a nationally recognized charter school that operates at two locations in Tampa. Its campus for kindergarten through sixth grade is at 16215 Hanna Road, and its campus for seventh and eighth grade is at 15316 N. Florida Avenue.
Even though Learning Gate applied for permission to operate a school at the Lutz Lake Fern location, no additional information is available about Learning Gate’s plans.
Brian Erickson, president of Learning Gate’s board, said in an email that “at this time, it would be inappropriate for anyone to comment.
“There are many unanswered questions. We are having ongoing communications with the bank who holds the note, but we are still doing our due diligence on the property,” Erickson wrote.
Published July 9, 2014
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