Here is the update on last night’s City Council meeting! I apologize for this long e-mail, but so many of you have written extensively about this topic and were anxious to hear about the meeting that we thought it might be best to provide a detailed summary.
If our goal in addressing City Council was to express our concerns about traffic safety and parking with the hopes of beginning a constructive dialogue with the city about solutions, the evening was an incredible success. Thanks to all of you who e-mailed the City Council members, shared your concerns, and offered solutions to the school’s traffic safety and parking issues as well as your concerns regarding the rezoning plans for Locust. Please know your voices made a huge difference! Here is an attempt to summarize what took place at the City Council meeting and outline the next steps.
During our presentation to the council, Mrs. Burger and Amy Sarver relayed the concerns with traffic safety (i.e. drivers speeding past Lee, lack of eye-catching School Zone signage, lack of stop sign at the corner of Locust and Waugh that makes the crosswalk there hazardous, general congestion and traffic concerns, etc.) and parking concerns (i.e. lack of parking for all teachers/staff, college students parking in the school’s 20-minute parking zones, no parking provided for parents/caregivers/volunteers, ticketing of school volunteers/parents, dependence of school on its parents and volunteers, etc.). The City Council was very receptive to our concerns and expressed its desire to help us find solutions. (More on this later.)
As for the Locust rezoning, the discussion began with a presentation of the rezoning plans and a discussion by the developer’s lawyer–even before we had the opportunity to speak, concerns expressed by Lee school was part of the dialogue thanks to your e-mails! The lawyer said that the developer would provide bussing for its tenants to get to off-site parking as a parking solution and expressed the desire to meet with Lee to discuss the school’s concerns and work together to find solutions. Six of our Lee parents then expressed concerns about the impact of the development, the traffic and safety issues that would result, and parking problems that would be compounded by the lack of parking provisions. Sacred Heart’s priest also spoke, concurring with traffic safety and parking concerns expressed by Lee and stated that there had only been discussions between the church and the developer about the use of its parking lot (no commitments, just discussions about parking options). The City Council members then outlined the reasons why they wanted this development to happen–it fits squarely into the vision they are trying achieve of creating a pedestrian/bike-friendly, high-density city center with increased use of city transit; it involves replacing dilapidated houses with new commercial and residential facilities where the infrastructure to support the development already exists, etc. They also said they wanted to provide solutions to Lee’s traffic, safety, and parking issues, and offered to meet with us personally to hear our present and long-term concerns and discuss solutions. So the council voted to approve the Locust rezoning and it sounds like the developer will be moving quickly to get its development plan approved and begin construction–so it looks like the apartment building with first-floor retail space will be built a block from the school. However, perhaps as a result of this approval, the city is bending backwards to address our short-term and long-term concerns for the area.
We are now looking at a very unique opportunity to work with the city. The city is totally on board for providing a stop sign on Locust at the Waugh intersection, providing eye-catching school zone signage, and having officers enforce the school zone speed limit. Two of the City Council members, Barbara Hoppe and Fred Schmidt, approached us after the meeting and offered to meet with us next week to discuss our concerns and work with us to develop solutions. If the city council members decide something should happen, it will happen–and everything is on the table! So if you have thoughts or ideas about how we should resolve our traffic issues, congestion, parking concerns, etc.–both our present concerns and those we might imagine in the long term, please e-mail them to leeartspta or contact Amy Sarver at 514-4384. We have a compiled list of all the concerns, ideas, and suggestions that we have received to date–if you would like to review them, we will post them in the next 24 hours on the PTA website at leeartspta.org. (Please let us know if you provided a concern or suggestion that we missed getting onto the list!) We will be collecting your comments/concerns/suggestions and organizing them by topic to share with the council members next week.
Lastly, we also had the opportunity to speak to the developer’s lawyer after tonight’s meeting and he also offered to meet with a group of Lee representatives to discuss concerns and work with us to provide solutions. We will meet with him in two weeks, after our discussion with the council members.
So that’s where we are. Thanks to all of you in the Lee community for pulling together to advocate for the safety of our children and the welfare of our school. We are looking forward to taking the next steps together with you!