We think the Rock Hill school district made the right decision in choosing to locate a new middle school track and field complex on an existing athletic field near Sullivan Middle School. But a heads up for neighbors would have been appropriate and might have prevented the complaints from nearby homeowners.
The district is building a new language immersion academy at Sullivan Middle School as part of the $110 million bond referendum passed in 2015. The site of the academy, which the district hopes to complete by next year, is where Sullivan’s track and athletic field once stood.
That required the district to build a new track, and two options emerged. One plan would have relocated the track to a field in nearby Cherry Park. The track would have had a synthetic turf surface, and it would have been used by both the school district and the city.
But a number of obstacles stood in the way of the project. It would have required closing Caswell Street, which runs between Sullivan and Cherry Park, to ensure student safety.
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The project also would have been considerably more costly. While the city was willing to put up as much as $550,000 for the track, that might not have covered all the added expense.
Finally, school district officials say they were not sure the Cherry Park plan could have been completed before the target date for opening the new language immersion academy, which officials said was the top priority.
So, the district settled on the other plan, which will locate the new track and field complex on a softball practice field off Maplewood Lane, near the city’s tennis center. The project will require no rezoning because the field already is used for athletic purposes.
Unfortunately, this plan came as a surprise for the many residents who live near the site. Residents chastised the district for failing to communicate at all with the neighborhood or allow homeowners any chance to comment on the plan.
Technically, the district was within its rights to do that. As Tony Cox, deputy superintendent for the district, noted, with no zoning changes anticipated, no neighborhood involvement was required.
Nonetheless, a public hearing of some kind was called for. The district could have notified every resident in the vicinity about the plan and invited their comments. A postcard to each home would have done the trick.
Residents are concerned that Maplewood, a narrow street with no sidewalks, will be overrun with traffic. Cox said the district did extensive design studies, including traffic projections, and concluded that traffic to the field would not overwhelm the area.
But that could have been communicated before the project was approved.
Again, we think the district chose the right plan. But a little more consideration for neighbors would have been nice.