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School site plan OK

Planning Board approves schematic

Planning Board member Paul Musci takes a close look at the new school plan Wednesday. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
June 16, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan for the middle/high school project Wednesday, but raised significant questions regarding whether it has enough parking.

To member Paul Musci, that was a concern especially when multiple public events are occurring at once. Under such circumstances, he predicted people parking up on Torrey Road and potentially in areas of the school site that might impede emergency access.

"You're going to have people parking all over the place," he observed. "I don't think 250 spaces is adequate."

Ty Johnson of landscape architect Warner Larson, however, observed that larger events "could far surpass 250 spaces, in my opinion." He said there will be around 100 extra "unmarked" spaces, most of them parallel along one side of the bus lane and entry driveway.

"In the planning stages, we worked closely with the school administration on the number, and they're OK with it," added architect Charles Hay of Tappe & Associates, although he acknowledged he didn't know how many staff the two schools will need spaces for. He noted one the actual use of the site will require some parking enforcement, especially in the beginning as people get used to it.

To Fire Inspector Steve Lavoie, a concern was the entryway from Torrey Road. He said he wanted to ensure fire trucks would be able to get around the corner from either side, and noted ladder trucks are wider than most buses.

But Building Inspector Nick Tortis seemed satisfied, noting many roads with one-side parking are the same width.

"We're beating the hell out of this thing, probably for no reason," he said. " I think we can make it without a problem."

The parking issue is only one of many that needs to be worked out in the $76 million project to build a combined middle/high school for 1,050 students off Torrey Road. Most of them, however, are not the Planning Board's purview; the School Building Committee oversees most of them, and Hay said he has already filed for permit hearings with the Conservation Commission and state Department of Environmental Protection.

Hay said the plans call for a lot of site work, tentatively to happen between September and Christmas, and with costs to be finalized this summer. Much of it is required to create level, terraced areas for sports fields, with much of the material to do that coming from reducing the central hill (where the school itself will be) by 10 feet and using rock blasted from other areas on site.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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