DAVIDSON – Town leaders are taking steps to ensure vehicles dropping off and picking up students at schools aren’t causing congestion on major roads.
Davidson commissioners approved parking requirements July 9 for incoming and expanding schools. The town didn’t have traffic or transportation standards relating to schools prior to the action, Planning Manager Ben McCrary said.
“Over the past several years, staff has spent considerable time working with each of the schools to start to address traffic concerns around the surrounding neighborhoods,” McCrary said. “This is a step toward starting the conversation either when a new school facility is proposed to build or expand.”
Changes require schools to provide “sufficient” stacking lanes for drop-off and pick-up on-site so that traffic doesn’t effect public right-of-ways. Schools will have to submit a traffic plan to the town that analyzes traffic circulation and queuing. Schools will also be required to have between 2 and 2.25 parking spaces per classroom.
Davidson officials have also talked about tweaking the parking requirements for high schools since classrooms don’t give an indication to the number of students who drive to school.
McCrary said the Davidson Planning Board requested staff to look at additional standards to address event parking, neighbor involvement with the traffic plans and incentives for alternative modes of transportation, whether that means carpooling, cycling or using the bus.
“We have recognized over the last two or three years the difficulty that drop-offs, queuing and parking has become for each of our schools,” Town Manager Leamon Brice said.
Charter school set for Main Street
Julie Walley hasn’t been able to get a clear answer as to how the traffic generated from Davidson Green School will affect congestion at her home on Meadowbrook Lane.
The new charter school is enrolling children in kindergarten through fourth grade for the 2013-14 school year, according to its website. The school spans more than 3 acres at 511 S. Main St., a former home.
“I’m just concerned what happens when I’m on the corner and I can’t get in and out of my own home,” Walley said.
Davidson Green School would not be subject to the changes that the town made to its planning ordinance, McCrary said, since it had submitted its application prior to commissioners taking action. Existing schools are only required to follow the changes if they change the number of classrooms.
“However, we have been having ongoing conversations with that school, and they are aware of these standards,” McCrary said. “We are in the process of reviewing their plans and their traffic impact analysis based on this language.”
He expects to have a better idea of how circulation, queuing and stacking will effect Twin Oaks Road and Main Street in a couple of weeks.
Davidson Day concerned about rules
Davidson Day School recently announced that it would scrap plans to build a second campus in Mooresville in favor of expanding at its existing site off Jetton Street. The expansion would require Davidson Day to submit a traffic study that includes a circulation plan and queuing analysis.
Head of School Kendell Berry believes this requirement poses a challenge to Davidson Day.
“I think this is a problem of urban and suburban schools that do not have a great deal of land,” Berry said. “We have limited space for queuing. We have limited space for adding pavement to our campus.”
Town officials say that the intent of the amendments is not to get schools to add more pavement, but to incentivize altnerate modes of transportation.
Commissioner Connie Wessner, who works at Community School of Davidson, said school administrators don’t want to be in the business of directing traffic, so it’s in their best interest to work with the town.
“Working with schools to continue to find new ways to incentivize those drop-off situations would go along way in helping the situation,” she said.
Berry said the school is trying to find some leased spaces in anticipation of greater parking needs.
“We’ve got to find better ways to get kids in and out of schools,” Davidson Mayor John Woods said. “It’s not in a single car.”