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Buffalo Township puts Freeport Area's planned middle school on hold

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 1:06 a.m.

The Buffalo Township Planning Commission on Wednesday delayed its decision on the site plan for Freeport Area School District's new middle school because of “significant deficiencies” in the stormwater management plan and other issues.

It is unclear how the delay will affect the building project, which is two months behind schedule.

District Superintendent Christopher DeVivo, who attended the meeting, declined to comment.

Freeport Area's school board had hoped to seek construction bids in the next few weeks so work could begin in June. Officials want the school to open for the 2015-16 school year.

The $30 million school is to be built behind the Freeport Area High School off South Pike Road (Route 356) in Buffalo Township.

The planning commission is expected to review a revised site plan on June 4.

The township's engineering firm said the district's stormwater plan doesn't have calculations to show the size of three retention ponds, the amount of water they can hold and how much would be released into a stormwater culvert under Monroe Road. The plan also lacks emergency overflow areas for the ponds.

“There are significant deficiencies with the current design,” said township engineer Ken Howard of Bankson Engineers. “They need to crunch numbers, and they need to make sure their system meets your ordinances.

“We thought we had them headed in the right direction two months ago.”

Also problematic is that the gym and auditorium roofs are 33 feet high, which exceeds the maximum height of 28 feet allowed in an R-1 zoning.

The district can either lower the roof height or it can request a modification by showing that it is a hardship to design it with a lower roof.

The height problem didn't come to light until Wednesday.

Freeport Area School Board members have complained that the planning commission keeps finding additional problems with their plans, which then require time to address.

Township officials say they simply want the district to comply with their ordinances.

“There's been some new things that have come up at every meeting,” said J. Greer Hayden, an architect with HHSDR Engineers, the district's project architect. “And we tried to address every one of those comments as they were presented.”

Planning commission chairwoman Regan Cordier said the district has had plenty of time to resolve issues.

The district submitted its site plan to the board in November 2013.

During an informal meeting a year before that, the township engineer informed district officials that they had to comply with the stormwater management ordinance and consolidate the separate parcels that constitute the campus into one.

The latter affected the way the site is viewed in terms of parking and stormwater requirements.

The parking issues have been resolved.

“I've been hearing since January that you were going to get the stormwater taken care of,” Cordier said. “You have our ordinances, you know what our ordinances say; you need to meet them.

“We're not going to let it slide. You have to do it right — it's that simple.”

Hayden said they couldn't move forward with completing the stormwater plans until parking issues were settled, plans for work on South Pike Road were finalized and grading work was done.

The district's stormwater plan is an alternative to replacing the drainage pipe under Monroe Road with a larger one.

That would cost about $150,000 and put the district a year behind in opening the school.

“I believe that if they work their numbers and the size of the ponds and facilities on the property, they could probably accomplish the capacity in those ponds to retain and not release more than what that pipe will pass,” Howard said.

Howard said that his office had a two-hour conversation with the firm handling the stormwater plan in an effort to resolve some of the issues.

“I believe we're headed in the right direction,” he said.

Hayden said their firm is not looking to bypass any of the township's ordinances and that all of the concerns will be addressed.

“It's our intention to work with the township on this,” Hayden said. “Let's move on and get a solution.”

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