Applicants for a charter school in Lutz have reduced the proposed enrollment for the kindergarten through eighth-grade school, but opponents say it’s still too big.
Charter Schools Inc. of Boca Raton has amended its request for a private charter school at the southwest quadrant of Lutz Lake Fern Road and Sunlake Boulevard.
The proposed charter school, Sunlake Academy, would be developed in two phases.
Initially, the applicant asked for permission for up to 1,020 kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
After significant public opposition, the request has been scaled back to a maximum of 870 students, with 670 students in phase one and 200 in phase two.
The request would be subject to the applicant’s ability to secure the necessary water and sewer permits, and would require an updated traffic analysis before the second phase would be allowed, according to revised conditions of approval provided by Michael Horner, a professional planner representing the applicant.
A public hearing on the application originally was scheduled in December, was scheduled again in January and then again in February.
Now, the hearing date is scheduled for March 16 at 6 p.m., at the Fred B. Karl County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd.
In addition to reducing the potential enrollment, the applicant would use staggered start and dismissal times to avoid off-site traffic impacts, would provide substantially greater buffering than required by county regulations, would agree to a number of improvements to facilitate access into and out of the school site, and would meet various other conditions.
The charter school request is facing considerable opposition from area residents.
When a community meeting was held on the issue at a hall across the street from the proposed school site, more than 90 people showed up.
The meeting was primarily an opportunity for those gathered to learn how the hearing process worked and to decide whether they wanted to create a legal fund to fight the project.
After the meeting, the legal fund was created and people took to the streets to circulate petitions in neighborhoods near the proposed school.
Mike White, president and founder of the Lutz Citizens Coalition, who has played a primary role in organizing the opposition, said that the scaled-back plans are still too intense for the location.
Horner said the delay was sought to ensure that the applicant has all of the information needed for the land use hearing master, who decides whether to approve or deny the request.
A number of area residents, community organizations and homeowner associations have gone on record against the request, sending emails to county staff, outlining their objections.
In a Dec. 23 email to the county, Todd Caroline, who lives in Lake Fern Villa, notes that the project would back up to his property line.
“It is already a struggle to get out of our community morning, afternoon and evening due to a poorly built intersection at Lutz Lake Fern Road and Sunlake (Boulevard). Ever since Steinbrenner (High School), Martinez (Middle School) and McKitrick (Elementary School) have opened, it has only gotten worse,” Caroline wrote.
James Lather, another opponent, said the Lutz Citizens Coalition vehemently opposes the application because of the inappropriate size, scope and density of the project for the proposed location.
Area resident Joanne Plazza noted that she’s lived in the area since 1987 and has never objected to any previous project. But, she said, this school would add traffic to an already congested area.
Opponent Sharon Bard, of 22232 Yachtclub Terrace, put it like this: “I am very much against this. I travel Lutz Lake Fern often and the added traffic would be horrific.”
White said opponents don’t object to schools, just schools that are proposed for unsuitable locations.
Published February 11, 2015