07/21/04 — Neighbors object to school site

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Neighbors object to school site

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 21, 2004 1:57 PM

Neighborhood residents opposed a request Monday to put another Montessori School on South Harding Drive.

Larry and Linda Lean asked the city to rezone the north side of South Harding Drive between New Hope Road and North Park Drive from residential to office and institutional.

The couple, both educators, want to open a Montessori School for about 50 students in a farmhouse near the North Landing Apartment complex.

But during Monday's public hearing, residents in the area opposed the project, citing noise and traffic concerns.

The city also received a protest petition from opponents and found that 60 percent of owners in front of the property and 100 percent of owners to the side and rear of the property opposed the rezoning.

That means it will take a yes vote from six out of the seven council members for the request to be approved.

Lean said he and his wife would like to turn the farmhouse into a Montessori school called the "Children's House" so that "kids can experience the joyful exploration of academics and the arts."

Montessori Schools practice a system of teaching young children, devised in 1907 by Maria Montessori, which emphasizes training of the senses and guidance rather than rigid control of the child's activity.

"I learned that people were protesting because of noise," Lean said. "We would be good neighbors and would practice what we preach."

Lean said the school would close at 3 p.m. and would not be open nights or weekends. He also said it would be closed during June, July and part of August.

"I believe the people were misinformed," he said. "This is not a day care, and I would hate to see excessive noise defined as a few kids on the playground at lunch."

Lean said that there were parents eager for the school to open, and about a dozen people then stood up in support of the rezoning.

Tommy Jarrett, a Goldsboro lawyer representing Woodard Realty, said that adding more traffic on a congested street would create more problems. Woodard Realty owns several apartment complexes in the area.

"My clients are opposed," he said. "There have been 29 accidents on that road since 1999."

Jarrett said the most recent accident on South Harding Drive had been within the past week.

"The area is ill-suited for having another school," he said. "There is already a Montessori school in close proximity, and it was constructed for being a school."

Jarrett said the existing school had a parking lot, and he couldn't see where there would be much room at the proposed school for parking.

"Rezoning is a bad idea," he said. "The lot size and configuration is not adequate for a school. I wish them good luck somewhere else."

Jimmy Estes from Brookwood Downs apartments said that, in addition to the 29 reported accidents, there were a number of unreported "fender benders" that routinely occurred on the road.

David Quick, a member of the long-range transportation planning committee, said that traffic on South Harding Drive was a major concern.

"That is a route planned for a bike trail, but it's so narrow that it's dangerous," he said.

Jeannine Atwater, a parent of a child planning to attend the school, said there would be a parking area and a circle for dropping the children off at the school.

"There won't be any overflow on the street," she said. "We would like to work with the people regarding the objections."

The council is scheduled to make a decision regarding the rezoning request at its Aug. 2 council meeting.