Planning board wants to limit traffic at temporary Catholic school

by Frank DeLoache

The Huntersville Planning Board has endorsed a change in zoning rules that would allow a new Catholic high school to open temporarily in a former warehouse on U.S. 21, about a half-mile south of Gilead Road.

But planning board members also supported restrictions on the temporary home of Christ the King Catholic High School, including potential fines and alternative parking plans if school traffic further clogs heavily traveled U.S. 21.

At their Nov. 16 meeting, the planning board endorsed:

• A limit of 300 students in the converted commercial building, which the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte wants to use while building a permanent school.

• A limit of five years that the school could remain in the temporary quarters opposite auto dealer row. The planning board suggested an initial three-year permit, with the option of one two-year extension, Planning Board Chairman Bruce Anderson said.

Anderson and other Planning Board members doubt whether school officials can handle traffic, particularly in the afternoon when parents have to wait longer for children in the rear of the building. Anderson wants town officials to be prepared to impose fines if school traffic backs up onto U.S. 21, reduce the number of students allowed at the school or limit the number of cars turning into the site.

“I’m a strong critic of the traffic backing up now around three of our schools: Torrence Creek (Elementary), Hopewell and North Meck (high schools),” Anderson said. “We need to prevent the problem we already have at three schools.”

At the Nov. 16 planning board meeting, Gary Knox, the Cornelius Realtor who represents the Catholic Diocese on the school project, said school officials would consider requiring parents to drop off and pick up students at another site, with the school busing students to the school in the morning and back to the drop-off point in the afternoon. Knox did not return messages from Mountain Island Weekly.

Huntersville commissioners are likely to vote Dec. 20 whether to change zoning to allow a temporary school in a corporate-business district. If the town board makes the change, the town staff is recommending the diocese get a special-use permit, which would enable the town to see site plans and add conditions, Town Senior Planner Brad Priest said.

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