Brunswick board OKs Jordan Acres school plan

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BRUNSWICK — A final site plan for the new $28 million Jordan Acres Elementary School was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Planning Board.

The final approval comes after the School Department was granted a special permit in January to build the 70,900-square-foot school in the GR8 zoning district. Under the town’s new zoning ordinance, approved last August, structures in that zone are only allowed a footprint of up to 5,000 square feet.

Including the second-floor space in the building, the total floor area is 90,000 square feet.

Atlantic Resource Consultants, the engineering firm contracted by the School Department, was required to wait 30 days after receiving the permit before submitting the site plan to the Planning Board.

A Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit is still required before construction can begin. The firm expects that to be issued in the next two weeks.

On Feb. 27, Andrew Johnston, a civil engineer from Atlantic Resource Consultants, gave a presentation to the Planning Board on updated building plans for the new K-2 school on Jordan Avenue. 

Voters approved construction of the new school last June and, according to building plans, construction is set to begin this summer. The plans also state site work is to continue through August 2020, which will put the school on track to open for the 2020-2021 school year. 

In September, the Brunswick School Board decided to wait until May to demolish the old building, at which time the project will also go out to bid.

Planner Jared Woolston explained on Tuesday evening that since the special permit approval, two canopies had been added to the plans over the main entrances of the building.

Following the Planning Board’s Jan. 9 approval of the permit, the Brunswick Town Council voted not to take jurisdiction of the permission at its Jan. 16  meeting. allowing the Planning Board’s approval to stand.

Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects gave an introduction before Johnson’s presentation. Keck said the new school is intended to house 660 students, and it will have four classrooms designated for pre-kindergarten.

Keck added that school administrators researched the number of students that attended the original Jordan Acres school, built in 1973 and closed in 2011, and found that 665 students were enrolled in 1990.

He also said the original school footprint was smaller than the proposed new building.

“At that time the existing building was a permanent building of 39,700 square feet, and another 9,000 square feet of portables, for a total of 48,700 square feet for the footprint,” he said.

Johnston went over the changes in traffic patterns proposed for the new school, which will allow passenger vehicle traffic to enter and exit the site through the Charles Court driveway, which is the narrower of the two driveways at the school. 

In the new design, bus traffic will only be allowed from the easternmost and widest driveway at the site, and both driveways will be equipped with a turnaround.

Site plans state the traffic re-design will allow separation of the two traffic streams and extend the drop-off and pick-up areas at both of the driveways’ edges.

Planning Board member M. Kelly Matzen inquired about a statement in the proposed finding of facts that said staff had recommended the Brunswick School Department place formal conservation restrictions on a parcel of undeveloped land on the property.

Matzen said the findings stated the applicant had declined to do so, and asked why that was the case.

Chairman Charles Frizzle said that statement was inserted by the staff and the former director of planning and development as “a desire on their part.” He added that at the sketch plan hearing for the new elementary school, planning board members decided to get input from the Town Council before imposing that restriction on the town.

“We left that phrase in the findings of facts that we sent to the town council for the special use permit,” Frizzle said. “So they had that in front of them when they decided not to take jurisdiction of the special permit.”

Frizzle added though the School Department has no plans for the piece of land, it would prefer not to encumber the piece of property at this time.

Laurie Leder and Bronwen Crothers, whose land abuts the property, also asked if vegetative buffers could be added to barriers separating their yards from the school property, to reduce noise.

Leder said she had recently changed her land from a single family designation to a two family, and is concerned about how the additional noise would bother her tenants. 

Crothers also asked that only indigenous plants be considered for the landscaping at Jordan Acres.

Frizzle said planting primarily indigenous plants is already part of the landscaping aspect of the proposal, and the town arborist had reviewed it.

While Johnston said his firm would look into adding vegetative buffers to the barrier for Leder’s property, Keck also pointed out that plants do not cut back on noise.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and, unfortunately, acoustical engineers I’ve worked with have told me vegetation does not reduce sound,” he said. 

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Andrew Johnson of Altantic Resource Consultants gives a presentation on the final plan for the new $28 million Jordan Acres Elementary School, which was approved Tuesday evening by the Brunswick Planning Board. Construction of the new school is expected to begin this summer.