The Zoning Board of Adjustment on Tuesday afternoon approved a special use permit for t
he future Henderson Collegiate Charter School at the southwest corner of County Home Road and Health Center Road, but not without school organizers being surprised by an opposition statement by their future neighbor.
While Anthony Peace, owner and administrator of Green-Bullock Assisted Living Center, gave a page of aesthetic and environmental reasons against the future school’s location, the board was satisfied with the future school leadership’s proposal.
Board member Duane Townes made the motion for the special use permit, with a second by board member Richard Brand and no dissenting votes in the city matter. Board member Edward Spain was absent, but he could not have voted because he is a Vance County appointee.
Peace shook hands with future school co-founder Eric Sanchez moments after the vote.
The plan is for the future school to be in modular units on county-owned property adjacent to the former Vance Manor. And the future school will be close to the Addiction Recovery Center for Men.
The County Commission on Monday gave the go-ahead to the future school for a lease at $1 each year of the future school’s three-year stay.
Organizers of the future school want to set up a permanent location at what is to be the Zene Street project. The goal of the Zene Street project is to transform a former 86,000 square-foot tobacco warehouse into a community, educational, medical and retail center.
During the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, Sanchez said the future school would be ready at the beginning of July and would start serving approximately 100-110 fourth grade students.
Peace said, “We’re going to lose a very nice, natural view in front of the area I’ve been sitting at for the last, almost 40 years.”
Additionally, Peace said Health Center Road is a dead-end drive and is not designed or set up to accommodate students and, noting most Americans do not do carpooling, estimated approximately 50 vehicles would be turning in.
“If I had someone that needed emergency care around the time that his students are coming into their school, I may have to make the ambulance wait” because of the single lane of Health Center Road and the lack of an immediate turnaround point, Peace said.
“Now, I don’t know what our county commissioners were thinking, but the school is going to be placed right smack dab in front of a drug-alcohol rehabilitation center and less than 500 feet away from an assisted living center that houses elderly, frail and old folks,” Peace said.
“If you are going to stay in the neighborhood, the other side of Vance Manor sure looks good,” Peace said, adding that the Vance Manor building and the trees mitigate sound and that the parking could accommodate the incoming traffic.
Peace additionally said that the future school could be located at the to-be-closed Clark Street Elementary campus and that neighborhood residents are accustomed to large volumes of traffic.
Renee Terry, a board member of the future school, said, “Mr. Peace made it sound like we’re going to have a hundred kids running up and down the road there all crazy, yelling, making noise and things like that. That’s not true.”
“This school is about discipline,” Terry said. “It’s about teaching kids to be good citizens. It’s about teaching people to be productive citizens in our community.”
“I mean, I know Mr. Peace is concerned about losing his view, but we need to look at the overall community view of what we want to see in this community,” Terry added.
Caroline Burnette spoke as an alumna of the Teach for America program, which seeks to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.
Burnette taught in Franklin County before deciding to become an attorney in the Tri-County area.
Burnette praised Sanchez and future school co-founder Carice Cantelupe, both of whom also were in the Teach for America program. Burnette noted that Sanchez taught at Eaton Johnson Middle School, that Cantelupe taught at Pinkston Street Elementary School and that Cantelupe is a national board certified teacher.
Burnette said Sanchez told her, “I love it here. I love the kids here and I want to be here.”
Nancy Jo Smith, who chairs the board of the future school and who leads the future school’s location committee, said Clark Elementary is county public schools property and is unavailable for assessment. The County Board of Education has claimed the final say on the Clark building’s fate after the doors are shut.
Additionally, Smith said that Vance Manor is located on a previously undivided parcel and that it is under grant for assessment with community activist Deryl Von Williams, who is working with the county government on Williams’ future endeavors.
Smith said the future school needs a location by the end of June and added, “We want to be good neighbors. We want to make a good impact on the community as a whole, including Mr. Peace’s facility.”
Sanchez said the school year is 10 months, with six months of them being in cold weather. And Sanchez said that students would be outside approximately 45 minutes a day in the warm months and that the future school’s media center would double as a multi-purpose room for physical activities.
“I am a little taken aback with Mr. Peace’s opposition because we spoke at length on Saturday and really talked about solutions to all these things,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that entry times of students would be on a staggered basis and that neither entry times nor departures would conflict with shift changes of Peace’s employees.
“And, also, carpooling actually will be a real thing at our school,” Sanchez added.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment additionally agreed to grant the future school a variance from landscaping and setback requirements because of the location being temporary.