An undeveloped field with rolling views of the Front Range could be the site of a bustling Castle Rock charter school come 2018.But some neighbors and officials are saying the proposed location could create traffic complications for …
An undeveloped field with rolling views of the Front Range could be the site of a bustling Castle Rock charter school come 2018.But some neighbors and officials are saying the proposed location could create traffic complications for neighbors.
Milestone Academy is planned on a pocket of unincorporated Douglas County land that's surrounded by Castle Rock near the intersection of Plum Creek Parkway and North Ridge Road. In discussions at school board meetings, directors and county staff debated the potential traffic impacts and the sufficiency of community outreach conducted by the project. It will be back for further review by the Douglas County Board of Education in coming weeks, likely at the board's Oct. 3 meeting.
Capstone Collegiate Academies hopes to open Milestone Academy in August of 2018. In its first phase, theK-10school would accommodate 700 students, but at full build-out, officials expect to double enrollment and add older grade levels.
Capstone's CEO, Merlin Holmes, told the school board on Aug. 15 that interest in the charter school was high, with 1,100 students and counting already signed up to enroll. Not all could be accepted until the project advanced beyond its first phase, although there is no timeline for future phases.
Milestone's charter was first approved by the school district in 2016on the condition it finds a suitable location — something that has proved difficult as the Douglas County Planning Commissionraised concerns about the development's impact on traffic within the community, if built at the location.
Because the project sits on unincorporated Douglas County land, it was required to go before the county's planning commission before reaching the school board. Capstone purchased the land earlier this year for the project.
Castle Rock owns both primary roads surrounding the project — Plum Creek Parkway and North Ridge Road — and the town would issue any access permits needed for the school to build along those streets. Each are two lanes wide.
The planning commission, which reviewed the project in July, mostly questioned the school's ability to keep cars from backing up both roadways during pickup and drop-off, a concern also stated by residents who have addressed the school board.
Plum Creek Parkway and North Ridge Road are conjoined by a roundabout and planned for future expansion, said Dan Avery, who presented to the school board on behalf of the county's planning commission on Aug. 15. Those road improvements could come in 2021 or 2022.
But traffic wasn't the only red flag raised. The planning commission found developers' community outreach in neighboring areas to be limited.
Numerous residents who spoke at the school board meeting on Aug. 15 said they were not opposed to a charter school but worried overflow from the school could worsen commuter times and overall traffic.
"My whole issue is the traffic," said Castle Rock resident Cathy Brady, who explained winter weather creates dangerous conditions in the area. "We have a very difficult time getting out of our neighborhood."
It was a point of concern for some school board members as well who weren't satisfied when Holmes explained the school had “done extensive marketing” in Castle Rock and contacted the town's homeowners associations.
“There's a big difference in my opinion between marketing a school and trying to get people to enroll and actually partnering with the neighborhood and saying, `Hey, this is what we're thinking about doing, we'd like to invite you in to collaborate with us,' ” school board member Wendy Vogel said Aug. 15.
Nearby resident Dave Heim said he was unfamiliar with the proposed charter school but was open to family-friendly development in the area.
“I prefer a school,” Heim said when considering other potential development, naming bars as one.
But traffic could be a concern with a school, he said.
Fellow area resident Mike Osgood was also unfamiliar with the project but was enthusiastic toward the idea of another charter school coming to Castle Rock. Osgood said he had a positive experience enrolling his three daughters in charter schools, and believes the town may need more schools in the long term.
“Charter schools, I've loved them. They worked really well,” he said. “I think we'll need it just because of growth.”
Holmes told the board they chose this site after first consulting with the school district in search of district-owned land for the project. No district locations were large enough, he said, or were being reserved for future public schools.
“It became evident to us that we needed to find a property through the private means rather than using a district property,” Holmes said.
Perry Glantz, an attorney representing Capstone, said developers are confident that traffic would remain on-site through a staggered pick-up and drop-off schedule and by utilizing the nearly 40 acres on which the school would be built.
On Sept. 14, Glantz acknowledged there are “vocal opponents” to the project, but said Capstone was making an effort to connect with the community, including a community meeting scheduled for that evening.
“We've listened to every comment that we've received from neighbors, from the county, from the town of Castle Rock, and we've addressed them,” Glantz said. “We believe, we're very confident, that we should be able to get the necessary approval of the planning commission for the project to go forward.”
The school board will review a new traffic plan for the school at its Oct. 3 meeting after Milestone presents it to the planning commission, scheduled for Sept. 18. If the project moves forward, it would still need to acquire roadway access permits from Castle Rock and pursue final construction permits, Glantz said.