[Editor's note: This story was updated March 13 at 8 a.m. in include the school district's response to the planning commission's ruling.]
Despite approvals from the Lindbergh School District Board of Education and St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic, Crestwood’s planning and zoning commission asked the school district to see if their new traffic plan for Long Elementary can be re-tooled.
Last year the Lindbergh board approved the purchase of 4.6 acres of land next to Long, on the border of Crestwood and Sunset Hills, to expand parking and add field space to the campus. A new traffic route intended to keep pedestrian and vehicle traffic separate has safety in mind, district officials have said. It also accounts for a future gym addition, the time frame of which has not been determined.
Under the new plan, the school’s five buses would head south down a new road connected to Doercrest Drive through a gate operated by a district staffer. Buses would exit onto Eddie & Park Road. The gate that would remain locked the rest of the school day, as well as weekends.
The plan drew criticism from residents in the Doercrest Manor subdivision, many of whom stated they support the school’s expansion, but had issue with the bus egress through their neighborhood.
Doercrest resident Frank Ruzicka told the commission that his pleas to the Board of Education to rework the plan “fell on deaf ears.” He believes the traffic plan transfers safety concerns from the campus to the Doercrest/Eddie & Park intersection. He said also took issue that this appears to be the only option the school district considered.
“How can you evaluate the safety of a plan when you compare it to nothing else?” Ruzicka asked.
A representative for the Lindbergh School District said they had taken Doercrest residents’ comments into consideration, and scaled the proposed traffic to Doercrest to the five exiting buses. Any alternatives considered by architects were a “tier down” from the current plan in terms of efficiency and safety, they said.
Reps added that the expanded parking should eliminate the need for visitors to find parking on nearby residential streets.
While Doercrest residents have been spreading awareness of their plight, and even gathered 150 signatures on a petition against the traffic plan, not all Long parents are in opposition. A few spoke in favor of the changes during last week's planning commisison meeting. A co-president of the Long Elementary School PTO told the commission that 95 percent of parents who responded to a PTO survey supported the traffic changes.
Mayor Jeff Schlink, who spoke during public comments, emphasized that all voices needed to be heard.
“When it comes to the school board presenting their plan, I had said that I have no plans for the city itself fighting the school district on the plan,” Schlink said.
Initiating an argument would waste both Lindbergh and Crewood taxpayer dollars, he said. Schlink advised that all parties try to find a middle ground.
“Some sort of collaboration is going to have to happen with the school district, the city, and with Doercrest residents.... Neither side wants to cut themselves out of the decision.”
Commission members directed the school district’s architects to examine the Doercrest egress for potential modifications before they approach the city’s Board of Aldermen on March 26.
Commission members cited concerns about the stormwater management design, how the plan was communicated to Doercrest residents, cars potentially parking on the residential streets to access school grounds--one commission member said he didn’t feel that Doercrest residents' voices were rightfully heard.
The commission’s recommendation was unanimous.
Update: Lindbergh responds to planning commission's ruling
The Lindbergh School District is seeking the opinion of a zoning lawyer to find out if Crestwood's planning and zoning commission made a legal call, Superintendent Jim Simpson told Call Newspapers.
Attorney John King will represent the school district at the Crestwood Board of Aldermen's March 26 meeting, according to the report. King has recently represented Al Moore in his quest to open a community library on the Paraclete property in Sunset Hills, and Land West 7's request to build a Petro Mart gas station and convenience store on Lindbergh Boulevard.
"... We were disappointed that the P and Z did not see what we considered the Mount Everest arguments of this, which is this traffic plan solves a terrible, dangerous and long-lasting — for decades — situation with traffic congestion and dangerous interactions of students between cars and buses...," Simpson told Call.
Browse our previous coverage Long’s traffic proposal (latest news first):