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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 06 2013

Ed Clapp school support diluted by traffic worries

FARGO – There was lots of support from Bluemont Lakes residents for building an elementary school in Ed Clapp Park during a public hearing Wednesday.

But that support bumped up against concerns about increased foot and vehicle traffic to and from the site proposed by the School District in the southeast corner of the park.

About 90 area residents attended a Park Board-hosted forum at Discovery Middle School, to get a closer look at the School District’s plan to build a four-classrooms-per-grade school.

Most residents who spoke at the forum liked the idea of a school in the park, but worries about increasing traffic volumes on 27th Street South, and 30th and 32nd avenues were a recurring theme.

Tom Schaffer said another 100 cars a day every morning and afternoon on 27th Street South is “a big concern for us (area residents). We have children, grandchildren and pets.”

He said another 300 children could walk in the area, and may be attracted to a nearby artificial lake, causing liability worries.

Ken Pawluk, who lives on 28th Avenue, said he’d support the site if access to the school was restricted to 32nd Avenue South.

“Our streets in Bluemont Lakes aren’t that wide,” Pawluk said.

“This could be a good thing,” added Jeff Johnson, who lives adjacent to the park. “I would just ask that in the effort to build a neighborhood school that we preserve the neighborhood it’s in.”

Several people spoke in favor of building the school, including Ben Clapp, the grandson of the park’s namesake.

Clapp said it was always his family’s vision to see a school at the site.

“To have a neighborhood school is amazing,” Clapp told the crowd, his voice thick with emotion. “I’d love to see it.”

“I’m very, very pleased to see all of our leadership talking about a school,” said Michael Jablon. “I’m ecstatic that we’re looking at infill and building where the kids are. This is fantastic.”

Real estate broker Jim McCreary said a school will be a plus for the area.

“When my clients come to town, they want to know where the schools are. They want neighborhood schools,” McCreary said.

In addition to members of the Park Board, several School Board members, city officials and staff from all three entities attended the meeting and answered residents’ questions.

City Planning Director Jim Gilmour said residents may be worrying too much about traffic. For example, a Taco Bell will draw 800 cars a day, but an elementary school has just a 15- to 20-minute window of heavy traffic.

“This isn’t a junior high school,” Gilmour added.

Park Board member Joel Vettel said a school could lower crime in the area, and provide better communication and a tie to the neighborhood for new Americans in the area.

“Maybe there are added advantages we’re not looking at,” Vettel said.

Park Board President Ron Sorvaag said the decision on whether to allow the School District to build in the park is on a fast track because the issue has already been heavily discussed and publicized.

He said the Park Board’s facilities committee will study the plan at 11 a.m. Friday.

The board will then meet at 5:30 Tuesday night to render its final decision on the matter.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583