Sneak a peek at South Garner High

kjahner@newsobserver.comMarch 25, 2014 

This artist’s rendering of the new South Garner High School shows the building in relation to access roads and athletic fields.

WAKE COUNTY SCHOOLS

— While the council meeting last Tuesday largely focused on broad schools issues as well as traffic, Wake County Public Schools also presented a number of design elements for the new high school in Garner.

Concerns about the design were raised regarding parking, sewer system and football stadium size at the meeting, but WCPSS says all the parameters fit their guidelines, and notes the plans meet all town requirements.

The new school designed to house 2,350 students will feature 327,640 square feet in a three-story building made primarily of red and beige brick as well as corrugated silver metal wall panels.

The site, nearly 58 acres in size, will also include a football stadium, baseball and softball fields, a practice field, and 843 parking spaces.

The school will have four access points. Two driveways on Hebron Church Road, which runs along the long side of the roughly rectangular lot, lead into the car loop and to staff and visitor perking. A driveway on Clifford Road and another on New Bethel Church Road will each lead to the bus loop and on-site student parking.

Residents expressed concern about traffic and buffering at a public hearing during the 4-hour long discussion and approval of the annexation and permit.

The town council required a six-foot chain link fence separating the school from the property on the west, where the school abuts other property with no road between the two.

The school had planned to rely on existing vegetation as a natural buffer. Initially council asked for a solid fence but the school objected since it would be a vandalism target and would result in the need to uproot some of the vegetation it hoped to keep as a noise and line-of-site barrier.

Council members also questioned the size of the football stadium and parking capacity for games. Per the system’s standard, it will seat 2,000 on the home side and 500 on the visitors side. But that left council members accustomed to standing-room-only crowds at Garner Magnet High School’s larger stadium concerned.

“There’s no way in the world people can get to the ballgame,” Councilman Buck Kennedy said, noting that the rural surrounding area didn’t provide overflow parking options like the strip mall near Garner High. “Nine hundred parking spaces will not get it.”

Town planning director Brad Bass said the town looked primarily at base parking requirements for school operations.

“We talked about (football games) but there’s no real way we have of measuring that type of event parking need in our code,” Bass said. “If they’re creating problems the school system will have to address that.”

One issue the school system will have to address: a small number of graves are located on the property. Those graves must be relocated prior to the town granting a building permit.

The town will also require street lighting on the streets surrounding the property.

Kennedy, an engineer by trade, also expressed concern about whether a particular section of pipe designed to provide water service to the school would be wide enough to serve the school. He relented on an initial suggestion to make revisiting the issue a formal condition, but advised planners to take another look.

The “right way”

The meeting Tuesday was more noted for its length than details of the building design. On Friday, mayor Ronnie Williams said he had never remembered a meeting so long and filled with so many questions. Issues ranged from traffic to school assignment.

After the four-hour marathon session, conditions were imposed on the school project, but did not impose some that the representatives of WCPSS said could cause problems with the construction schedule.

Overall, Williams said he was satisfied with the building’s planning as well as the long process, occasionally confrontational, by which the town council aired concerns.

“The Wake County school system has got a record of good planning and implementation, and their way of doing things is the right way,” Williams said. “However I can appreciate and accept the fact that it’s good for the local council to question them. The council members speak for the citizens. There’s nothing wrong with them asking these questions.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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