Thursday, June 26, 2008

Residents Successfully Propose Alternatives to Humble ISD Regarding High School Construction

Kings Forest residents held a meeting today with Houston City Councilman Mike Sullivan, Dr. Guy Sconzo, Superintendent of Humble ISD, Deborah Yocham, director of Facilities, Jody Doeble, construction project manager for Kingwood High School, David Valerius, architect for the project, and others from the school district. The purpose for the meeting was to present alternatives to the proposed entrances and exits to the parking lot behind the high school. Residents are concerned about the amount of traffic that will route through the parking lot, traffic congestion on Valley Manor, and the location of bus exits directly across from residences.

Representing Kings Forest was new Board President Kevin Morley, Dick and Vicki Stewart, and Jan Mohr, who live directly across from the high school. Approximately a dozen residents attended to lend their support.

Dick and Vicki Stewart, hosts of the meeting, described how Kings Forest residents had always been “good neighbors” to the high school and supportive of the school district. “Now we’re asking you to be good neighbors,” said Dick.

Kevin Morley described the impact on the whole community of Kings Forest, in addition to those property owners bordering school property.

“This is a major entrance to our community,” he said. “We’re now facing a situation where this will become a thoroughfare for buses, cars, and pedestrians. This will change the secluded nature of our neighborhood, and we all face a loss of property values as a result.”

Kevin went on to explain that the construction waiver requested from Kings Forest by the Humble ISD was granted without a board vote, without consulting the impacted residents and without community involvement. This opened the door for the residents to file an injunction stopping construction.

“But this is not our desired course of action. We support what you’re doing to improve the high school, but we want to make this work for our community as well.”

The school district and architect were asked what governing documents from the City of Houston provided the guidelines for siting the entrances. The response was none – there were no City guidelines driving their location. The architect explained that the plan was done based on the needs of the school district and the need expressed by the teachers for parking.

When asked if a traffic study had been done to determine what the impact would be of the additional traffic, the indication from the school district was that none was performed.

Vicki Stewart then asked why the entrance and exit couldn’t be located close to each other, across from the greenbelt (rather than their home). The school district responded that there’s no reason why they couldn’t look at this option. Their answers indicated their major concerns were related to costs incurred in changing their design and limited timeframe for completion.

Kevin summarized the situation: “So it’s not about logistics or safety, it all boils down to cost.”

Jan Mohr challenged the school district to look out the front door and imagine it was their home that was being impacted. “Look out your front door, and ask yourselves if you would want to look at the entrance to the parking lot. We’ve been good neighbors and given you what you need. Now you need to respond in kind.”

Superintendent Sconzo, who had listened carefully to both sides of the discussion, indicated he understood the residents’ concerns and requested that the architect scope out the solution proposed by the residents, where the entrance and exit would be located across from the greenbelt. The architect estimated this could be accomplished in a week.

While this redesign is underway, residents asked that construction cease and no more money be expended on paving the entrance across from the Stewarts. Kevin asked the board to reconsider taking such a permanent step before re-evaluating the options proposed.

Mike Sullivan afterward complimented the residents for conducting the meeting in a “business-like fashion” and their focus on presenting facts, without emotion.