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Site plan for school endorsed by panel

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE -- By skips and jumps, plans for a new Clarke County high school move forward.

The project cleared a major hurdle this week as the Berryville Area Development Authority endorsed a preliminary site plan. Several more big steps lie ahead.

The Clarke County School Board and officials have been working on a proposal to build a new facility, budgeted at $33 million, on property on West Main Street/Va. 7 Business near Battlefield Estates. The 45-acre site is bordered to the west by Tom Whitacre Circle and to the north by the future extension of Mosby Boulevard.

The School Board submitted the preliminary site plan to the development authority Aug. 19. The document is required for the board to receive the special-use permit necessary for building a school on the site. The property is zoned detached residential, town planner Christie Dunkle explained Thursday, and a school is not a by-right use.

The authority recommended that the Town Council approve the preliminary site plan for the project.

The authority is involved in the process because the school site lies in an area annexed by the town in the early 1990s, Dunkle said. The authority's membership includes representatives from both Berryville and Clarke County.

Residents and other concerned individuals have chances to speak at two upcoming public hearings on the project. The Berryville Town Council has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 22 on the special-use permit request. Prior to the hearing, the council will speak about the proposed use of Tom Whitacre Circle at its meeting Tuesday.

Town staff will recommend that the council schedule a public hearing for Oct. 13 to discuss and receive comments on both the preliminary site plan and the special-use permit request, Dunkle said.

Keeping the process moving has its advantages.

"We want to hopefully take advantage of cheap construction costs so we're trying to get this through and expedite things as we can," Dunkle said Thursday.

The Planning Department does require the School Board to submit a final site development plan that conforms to the town's regulations. Borings being conducted on the site would determine any last-minute modifications to the building location.

The town also requires the plans address stormwater management, including the channel and retention efforts.

As with previous proposals on other sites, officials faced tackling the transportation issue.

The preliminary site plan identifies three entrances to the proposed school: a bus loop from Va. 7 Business and access points on Mosby Boulevard to the west and north.

Locating the proposed facility in or as close to the town as possible would benefit the locality by reducing "school sprawl" caused by the necessary extension of utility lines, said Dunkle, citing the revised Berryville comprehensive plan.

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