A local zoning board has denied approval of plans for a new high school, but the Licking Heights (Ohio) district says it will use a legal exemption to begin construction this week,
The Columbus Dispatch reports that Licking Heights officials are moving forward with the project because it is already two months behind schedule and they didn't want to risk further delays.
The district’s wants to build a 259,000-square-foot high school on land it owns in Pataskala, Ohio, but in September, the city's zoning board denied the district’s request to rezone the land from agricultural to school use by a 3-1 vote
The zoning board cited traffic and infrastructure concerns, among other issues.
The district has appealed the decision, and that is still pending.
School officials also have tried without success to reach a settlement with city council.
Instead, they’ll use an exemption established in a 1980 Ohio Supreme Court case, which states that political subdivisions, including school districts, have no obligation to comply with local zoning procedures, as long as they make “reasonable efforts” to comply with local zoning restrictions.
The district already has conducted four traffic studies and will put some recommendations into place, Licking Heights superintendent Philip Wagner says.
The district’s goal is still to open the new school in the 2020-21 school year, next to the existing facility. That building would be converted into a middle school.em.
The Licking Heights district has nearly 4,400 students, an enrollment that has more than doubled since 2003, when the existing high school opened, its web site says.
Space is at a premium—about 550 students are housed in portable classrooms.
Further delays in construction would also result in increased costs, Wagner says. Stalling the project until spring would cost $58,000 in added expenses, according to initial estimates.