Windsor High renovations unaffected by Planning decision

Published 10:31 am Friday, July 28, 2017

Isle of Wight County Schools still expects to complete its renovations to the career and technical education facilities at Windsor High School on time and on budget, despite incurring a potential setback on Tuesday for its plans for Smithfield.

The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission voted 8-2 Tuesday evening to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny the school division’s request to exempt its plans for a new football field house at Smithfield High School from county zoning ordinances pertaining to building materials and exterior walls. However, their motion also granted the requested exemptions for the division’s proposed JROTC field house and multi-use pavilion.

Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of gifted services, community and media relations, said that if the Board of Supervisors accepts the Planning Commission’s recommendation, it will raise the cost of the proposed construction at Smithfield by approximately $68,000. However, it would have no impact on the renovation budget or timetable for Windsor High School’s renovations.

The division’s request for exemption came as a result of its desire to reduce the estimated cost of its renovations to Smithfield’s campus by using metal siding for the proposed outbuildings. County zoning ordinances specifically prohibit metal exterior walls in the Newport Development Service Overlay District, in which the school is located. They further mandate that any facade over 100 feet in length include architectural detailing such as arcades, entry areas, awnings, etc. to enhance the facade. The division’s plans do not include these architectural details either.

The reason the Planning Commission chose to allow the exemption for the JROTC field house and multi-use pavilion but deny it for the football field house is because the JROTC field house and multi-use pavilion would be located behind the high school and would not be visible from the street. The football field house, however, would.

“The only way to cut the cost of the [JROTC] building is to shrink it, so if we have to proceed with the brick, we lose the drill room, and that defeats the whole purpose of the project,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. “We want to be good neighbors, but we also want to be good neighbors with community dollars.”

The Planning Commission’s decision can still be considered a partial victory for the school division, though. Thornton estimated that, had the commissioners denied exemption for all three proposed outbuildings, the cost of the project would have risen by approximately $180,000.

The dissenting votes on the motion came from Newport District Commissioner Richard Gillerlain and Carrsville District Commissioner Don Rosie.

In other business, the Planning Commission also discussed making changes to the county’s ordinances pertaining to temporary and permanent signage for businesses, but took no action on the matter. The proposed changes include adding language specific to shopping centers concerning temporary signage, allowing flag or banner-type signs as a form of temporary signage, creating a single standard for the size and location of permanent signs throughout the county rather than differentiating between those in service districts and those outside, increasing the amount of window space a sign is allowed to cover from 15 percent to 25 percent, and adding language requiring maintenance for temporary signs.

Citizens’ time speakers included Lynn Faulkner and Jane March. Faulkner brought to the Planning Commission’s attention comments that were made at the last Board of Supervisors meeting concerning the commission’s performance.

“At your last meeting, you unanimously voted to turn down a business on Brewer’s Neck Boulevard; the planning staff also turned down the business,” Faulkner said. “This wasn’t satisfactory to the supervisors. You guys were all thrown under the bus.”

She also encouraged the Planning Commission members to watch the video recording of the last supervisors meeting and hear what was said for themselves.

March expressed concerns about the condition of Fire Tower Road, which serves as an alternate route from Highway 258 to Route 460, and presented a petition she had circulated throughout the Zuni-Windsor area. The petition had received over 200 signatures.