Horn Elementary’s plans to construct a new school building cleared a hurdle Tuesday to progress to the next stage: a future public hearing and discussion before the Bellaire City Council.
Although Commissioner Donna Rickenbacker pushed strongly to postpone a decision, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission moved forward to recommend approval for a specific use permit on plans for a new, 85,000-square-foot Horn Elementary. The new school would be comprised of a two-story main building and supporting campus structures, which can fit a maximum of 750 students.
The proposal essentially flip flops the current site plan. The new school at Holly Street and Avenue B would be on the fields where Bellaire Little League plays baseball games. After the new campus was finished, the old school buildings would be demolished to make room for new sports fields.
“It is the most logical use of the site because it allows the existing school to function during construction of the new school,” said Stan Winter of TBG Partners. Working on behalf of the Houston Independent School District, Winters presented information at a public hearing Tuesday about the Horn Elementary plans.
Rickenbacker wanted to postpone a decision until next month because she said she wanted to encourage more public comments about the plans. She was concerned that too few people attended the public hearing.
“I don’t think the notice that went out to the neighborhood adequately explained the extent of this expansion program,” Rickenbacker said.
Rickenbacker voted against recommending approval of the school’s specific use permit, but the motion still passed 4-1, with one commissioner recusing himself and another absent. The commissioners in favor of the plan said they had enough information to make a decision, and they were happy with the standard notices that were mailed and published to inform residents about the public hearing.
“I am pretty satisfied with the extent of the work that has been done on it,” said Commisioner Michael Doyle, who served as chair because Bill Thorogood was absent.
“Right now I guess I can’t justify holding on to it for any longer than this,” said Commissioner Paul Simmons.
“I’ve heard enough tonight to make a decision as far as going on for approving the application and moving it forward to council,” said Commissioner Lori Aylett.
Rickenbacker also said she wanted more information about traffic and enrollment numbers at the new school.
The plans include 146 parking spots for Horn employees and parents, which is a 78 percent increase compared to current parking. HISD ordered a traffic study that shows the new school building will not have adverse effects on traffic — In fact, it may help clear congestion, Winters said.
Three pick-up and drop-off locations surrounding the school will allow parents to pull out of traffic while waiting for their children. The new school will also have a parking area specifically for parents who want to walk their children into class.
Patrick Phelps, a resident of the 4500 block of Pine Street just across from Horn Elementary, said he has enjoyed having the school as a neighbor but he’s not as enthusiastic about being across the street from the future ball park.
“Basically what I see going on in the ball field is really not very good with the parking,” Phelps said. “People park on both sides of the road allowing one lane to go forward.”
School officials said they would open Horn Elementary parking spots to the public during non-school hours, so ball game visitors would have options for off-street parking.
Several Bellaire residents voiced enthusiastic support for the school’s construction plans.
“This has been something that has been a long time coming,” said Horn Elementary PTO President Steve Clark. “Know that there is a large portion population here that absolutely supports this project and are very, very excited at the prospect of it becoming part of our community.”