Board Approves School Zoning Amendment with Sunset

by John Holler, Correspondent. Earlier in January, the Wright County Board of Commissioners had questions concerning a proposed zoning ordinance that seemed specific to the Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy, which is seeking charter school status. Since Commissioner Charlie Borrell, who serves on the planning commission that unanimously approved the request, was absent from the meeting following surgery, it was tabled to the Jan. 23 board meeting for a final decision.

Commissioner Darek Vetsch stated his reservations of tailoring an ordinance for a single property could set a bad precedent, but added that provisions already in the law would require the school to go through the conditional use permit process, as well as charter school regulation. The ordinance would also include a provision that the amended ordinance would be revisited by June 30, 2020 to make the ordinance permanent or subject to repeal and expiration.

Borrell said the process was lengthy to get in its final form. “When this ordinance first came to planning and zoning, it was very broad,” Borrell said. “It was like two lines long. At the planning commission we listed to school districts, superintendents, people that are going to the school, and a lot of members of the general public. They felt it might be opening too much stuff, so staff got directed to shrink it down. It did get tailored, not to this particular school, but very, very few.”

Vetsch clarified his position as to the primary reasons for his concerns, saying it is a complete reversal of policies that have been in place for many years. “For the record, my biggest concern was the infrastructure that townships have – law enforcement, timeliness to response times, fire response times, medical response times, traffic needs, and road infrastructures,” Vetsch said. “Those are the biggest concerns that I have in changing our previous practice to today’s practice. Decades ago, we switched from having country schools and bringing them into urban settings for infrastructure needs. Now we’re looking at making that change and I don’t want make that change hastily. I want to take our time and make sure we comfortable making a permanent change for the future.”

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