Judge hears arguments in Franklin Regional’s Sloan ‘elementary campus’ appeal case
Judge Harry Smail has a lot to consider in an appeal of Murrysville council’s approval of an “elementary school campus” project for the Franklin Regional School District.
Smail heard oral arguments Wednesday in Common Pleas Court from attorneys representing three parties to the appeal — the municipality, school district and “Sloan Project Concerned Citizens” group, which filed the initial appeal.
• The citizens’ group, represented by attorney Jeff Ries, contends that Murrysville officials did not go far enough when placing conditions on the school district’s plans to renovate Sloan Elementary School to serve all students in kindergarten through second grade, and build an upper elementary for grades 3 to 5.
They would like to see a turning lane added to Sardis Road for school traffic, the widening of Crowfoot Road as well as a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Crowfoot and Longview Court, the entrance to the Murry Woods housing plan.
“We think our conditions, along with the post-construction traffic study (also imposed as a condition by Murrysville), will satisfy our concerns,” Ries said.
• The school district, represented by attorney Robert Wratcher, cross-filed an appeal, and would like to see two of Murrysville’s imposed conditions struck down.
One condition would require that the school district perform a post-occupancy traffic study in order to determine what, if any, traffic improvements might be necessary. The district was required to post a $2.3 million bond based on the expectation that the study would take place.
Wratcher said the responsibility for improving local roads belonged to the entire community, not just the school district.
“There’s no question that Murrysville has some very rural roads, which they’ve decided not to upgrade,” Wratcher said. “But if they’re saying the roads are not sufficient, then the implication is that no school could be built on a two-lane road, and we can all think of many schools built on that type of road.”
The other condition would require the school district to regularly test water quality in nearby streams to ensure there is no contamination or pollution from construction.
Wratcher cited Murrysville ordinances which declare water quality issues the province of the state Department of Environmental Control.
• The municipality, represented by solicitor George Kotjarapoglus, said that the school district voluntarily entered into a developer’s agreement that included all of the conditions, regardless of whether or not those conditions went above and beyond what municipal ordinances require.
“We have an agreement, a contract, in place,” Kotjarapoglus said. “At this point, I reject any argument that these conditions aren’t valid. They’ve signed the developer’s agreement, which is required by our ordinance.”
Kotjarapoglus said he didn’t believe the court could “parcel out” portions of the conditions.
“It’s either all or nothing,” he said.
With regard to water quality testing, Kotjarapoglus said it was particularly important for the school district to monitor and address it if necessary.
“This will be a construction site for two years, bordering two streams,” he told the court. “We’re not going to wait for a state agency to come in. And again, this was agreed to in the developer’s agreement.”
Wratcher also addressed Sloan Project Concerned Citizens’ contention that the development was not harmonious with the surrounding area or that new construction on the property would place an undue burden on area residents.
“People buy a house with a school nearby, and there’s this big field,” Wratcher said, referring to the sizable open space between the existing Sloan Elementary and nearby Murry Woods. “But that field has always been zoned for a school. We have a parcel that’s been zoned for public use for many years.”
Wratcher said it was disingenuous to say the project is not harmonious with the neighborhood, “considering you have a 98-acre property with a school already on it, a municipal building and a public works garage nearby.”
Smail asked that a copy of the developer’s agreement be added to the case record. He will review the agreement.
“I can determine whether it’s a binding document, and whether it’s an ‘all or none’ situation,” he said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .