Request to close or gate off High School Drive
The Gainesville City Council met for their regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. last Tuesday, Feb. 14, at City Hall. The following council members were present: Renee Schmucker, Ken Crawford, Seth Collins, Lana Bushong and Dana Crisp. Mayor Gail Reich was also in attendance, as were City Clerk Lisa Goodnight and city employees Jessi Price and Josh Easterday. Council member Treva Warrick was absent.
After approving the minutes of last month’s meeting and approving regular bills to pay, the council heard from Gainesville School Superintendent Justin Gilmore, who requested that the city close off or gate off a portion of High School Drive, a Gainesville city street that runs in front of the high school.
Gilmore said that the school is beginning to make plans for a piece of land that sits directly across the street from the school. The land Gilmore references was originally owned by the city and used as part of the city’s municipal airport for many years, but the school took possession of the main portion of the airport property last spring in a land swap with the city. In exchange for the airport land, the school gave the city ownership of a parcel of land where the city park, Hoerman Memorial Park, sits now, just below the track and football field. Before the land switch, the city had leased that portion of land from the school for the park. The city retained about 18 acres of the airport land, a stretch that runs alongside Highway 181, and the school now owns the rest including the entire parcel that faces High School Drive.
“We’re beginning to make plans for that property across the road. Part of those plans include extra parking,” Gilmore said, addressing the council. “The high school has never had enough parking, and it’s always been an issue. You can go to the ballgame tonight, and you’ll see people parked all down the road and anywhere else they can.”
Gilmore said that the school’s plan is to build an additional parking lot across the street, meaning that students and community members who attend events at the school will need to cross High School Drive in order to utilize it.
He also said there is the possibility of other development on that and nearby property including the possible acquisition of a large airport hanger that housed the former Gainesville location of The Real Life Church, which closed its doors in December. Gilmore said that if that happens, the school may use the space for classrooms, meaning students will also be crossing the street during school hours to get to those classes.
“Obviously there’s a safety concern there. By shutting down a portion of that road, we’re not taking anything away from anybody. You would still be able to access the [Airport] Trailer Park from the other side, and you would still be able to access the Bulldog Apartments on this side. The only access that would be affected is that of the school. And you’d be keeping people from going 75 miles an hour down that road right in front of the school. The road where we’re bringing out buses and where our kids are.”
Bushong asked Gilmore how big of a stretch he is proposing to close, and the superintendent said the closure could be a small section.
“I don’t necessarily know that it has to be a huge span. You could literally put a gate across the road so thru traffic can’t drive past there. That would allow people to come in and drop their kids off at school [in one entrance] and go out [the other entrance] just like they are used to.
“The biggest thing is to stop the thru traffic, even if that is just during school hours or when there’s a ballgame or event,” he said.
City Clerk Lisa Goodnight explained that the city council does not vote on a matter at the same meeting it is presented, but it would need to be put on an upcoming month’s agenda for action or a possible vote.
She also told Gilmore that she would also need to do some research on the legal process of potentially closing a portion of a city street. She said she would be in touch with Gilmore after she is better informed, and the city council would put the matter on an upcoming agenda.