www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/towson/ph-tt-mays-chapel-site-0718-20120710,0,7257725.story

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Councilman Huff raises road access at Mays Chapel school site plan review

Says Roundwood entrance could create 'fiasco' for neighboring complex

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

8:51 PM EDT, July 10, 2012

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Issues of road access, trail retention and a speedy construction schedule were discussed Tuesday, July 10, as the Baltimore County Board of Education was presented with site and design plans for the new Mays Chapel elementary school.

Ken Jones, the project architect, said plans developed for Vincent Farms Elementary in White Marsh will be used for the Mays Chapel school, essentially allowing it to be built on a fast track.

The process of securing permits, putting the project out to bid and preparing the site will begin in September, and construction is scheduled to begin in May 2013. The school is targeted to be completed in June 2014.

School officials said it will help alleviate overcrowding at Riderwood, West Towson, Padonia, Pot Spring, Lutherville, Pinewood, Warren and Timonium elementary schools.

The selection of the site has been controversial — this past spring, neighbors voiced their opposition to the use of Mays Chapel park for the new school, even though the county has long held the 20-acre tract at West Padonia at Roundwood roads as a potential school site. About seven acres of the tract will be used for the school.

On Tuesday, as board members were briefed on plans for the 700-seat school, 3rd District County Councilman Todd Huff (R) said he came to try to represent some of the issues raised by neighbors.

"If the school has to be built here — which most of us are coming to that resolution — I've been working directly with the community and trying to come up with some happy mediums," Huff said.

Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, also attended the presentation, and said residents still haven't warmed to the idea of a school built in an area heavily populated by empty nesters and senior citizens.

But "there's just a tacit acceptance that that's what it is," he said.

One point raised by Huff regarding the site plan is the entrance road — slated to be off Roundwood Road, with separate drop-off stations for buses and parents.

Huff recommended a split entrance for buses and cars be designed, with buses coming in off Padonia Road and cars using Roundwood.

Ideally, Huff said, he'd rather see all vehicles come off Padonia Road to keep traffic off Roundwood, a narrow residential street, but separating the buses from the student drop-off area off Roundwood would address his student safety concerns.

Additionally, Huff noted that the road across from the proposed school entrance is a private one —owned by the condominium complex across the street.

He said that when presented with the opportunity, parents leaving the school would use the private road to bypass the traffic at the corner of Padonia and Roundwood.

"I do believe that is going to create a fiasco," said Huff, who suggested the board reconsider that access road before the plan is finalized.

The site for the school will include soccer fields, two junior baseball/soccer fields, and playgrounds, as well as a walking trail through the adjacent woods to replace an existing one that will be lost during construction.

Adjacent to the fields and parking areas, a section of the building will be used by the Department of Recreation and Parks for an activity space, storage, and restrooms that are accessible from the field.

"The site design will attempt to incorporate all of these elements, and the building, in a way that preserves as many positive features of the existing site, whenever feasible," Jones said.

He said the first floor of the building will house pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classes, along with special classes, a gymnasium and cafeteria. The second floor will house second, third, fourth and fifth grades.

The school, estimated to cost about $20 million, is being designed as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified building, meaning it will incorporate energy saving features.