DRB not keen on temporary classrooms 9/25/08

School missed deadline for submitting master site plan

Sept. 25, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Citing a bad economy, a moratorium on state aid for school construction projects, and voter apathy towards budget increases, members of the Williston School Board made their case to extend the permit that allows the modular classrooms at Allen Brook School.

School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth and Vice Chairwoman Holly Rouelle, along with Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Elaine Pinckney, discussed the need for an extension before the Development Review Board at its Tuesday, Sept. 23 meeting.

But members of the Development Review Board did not seem enthusiastic in granting an extension, instead stating they wanted to see a master site plan for Allen Brook School that would address what to do with the classrooms.

The board granted the school district a four-year permit extension in February 2006 for the temporary classrooms, which were installed in 2002. Under conditions for the permit, the school district had to provide a site plan by February 2008. The permit for the classrooms expires in February 2010.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the planning office had not received any site plans and neither had the Development Review Board. Technically, the school district was in violation of its conditions, he said.

Worth told the board the issue would be remedied and a master plan would be brought forth soon.

During the meeting, Worth, Rouelle and Pinckney continually gave reasons as to why the temporary classrooms should stay, since new construction is not a possibility.

“If we went for a bond for Allen Brook, we wouldn’t have a chance,” Pinckney said.

Worth said the original purpose of the modular classrooms was to accommodate increased enrollment. In recent years, enrollment has leveled off, she said.

“We don’t have a decrease in enrollment that has dropped enough to where we don’t need them,” Worth said.

Pinckney added if the board did not grant a permit extension, both Williston Central and Allen Brook schools would become overcrowded.

Development Review Board Chairman Kevin McDermott said it was the board’s policy not to make exceptions for any applicants, and that an applicant’s budget concerns are not the board’s concern.

McDermott faulted the Development Review Board for originally granting temporary classrooms  and putting both parties in an uncomfortable position.

Pinckney said she was looking for more guidance in regards to what the Development Review Board’s intention was towards the classrooms and what the school district should do for a master plan. McDermott was not about to offer suggestions.

“I have no idea, that’s what you guys were supposed to do,” McDermott said. “It’s your job to provide us with a solution.”

McDermott said he did not want to see a master plan that stated only that the school district would be asking for a permit extension after 2010. For him, that would not be considered a master plan.

“It will be rejected,” he said.

Worth said after the meeting a master plan would be drafted, adding she liked Development Review Board member Cathy O’Brien’s suggestion to morph the temporary classrooms into the Allen Brook structure.

Worth also said the School Board intends to bring the modular classroom issue before the Selectboard when the boards meet during a special meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at Williston Central School.