Education

Gregory School Bus Driveway and Parking Lot Gains Final Approval by West Orange Planning Board

a08ec6f4704ca9b3e3d1_gregory_school_pre_driveway.jpg
Gregory School, before the work begins Credits: WO BOE
a08ec6f4704ca9b3e3d1_gregory_school_pre_driveway.jpg

WEST ORANGE, NJ – After a review of the plans for the project, and lengthy questions and comments from the public and board members, the West Orange Planning Board officially approved the Gregory School bus driveway and parking lot expansion on Wednesday.

The vote was 6-3, with board members Jerry Eben, Gerald Gurland and Gary Wegner voting no.

The plan was formally presented to the board for its third review by Mike Petry of Petry Engineering. He reviewed the details of the plan, including the creation of a bus-only driveway in front of the school, expansion of the parking lot from 53 to 71 spaces, the widening of sidewalks and improvements to grading and the drainage system.

Sign Up for E-News

The creation of the driveway will mean the large stately trees that currently stand in front of the school will be cut down. In their place, the plan calls for flowering dogwoods to be planted in front of the school, plus additional planting of shrubs and other plants around the school and parking lot.

While overall the topic of “safety” for the schoolchildren was a theme, discussion of the plan got tense at times with the public as well as with some board members. Board member Jerry Eben started using his question session with Petry to ask questions about every detail of the plan, telling everyone in the room, “we’re going to be here a long time.”

After numerous technical questions about the blueprints and architect comments, Chairman Ron Weston eventually asked Eben to ask pertinent questions about the plan outline, calling his line of questioning “filibustering” as they pertained to specific technical questions which could be answered later.

In his final comments later on, Eben warned “Someone’s gonna get hurt,” and lamented that “there are more solutions than the ones presented here” which were never discussed.

Another board member with strong views was Gerald Gurland, who called the plan “a disaster,” and specifically lamented the loss of the trees which had been part of the school’s landscape for decades.

Local residents and opponents of the plan targeted the lack of a traffic study and the unenforced parking rules on Lowell Avenue as the major causes for concern that needed to be addressed. Councilman Joe Krakoviak addressed the unifying safety theme, saying, “We all have the same goal, to maximize the safety of all children and parents. I’m not convinced this plan will do that.”

Krakoviak again called for a traffic study to be done. “Consider asking for a traffic study from someone who has not already decided it is not needed,” he said, making reference to Harold Maltz, a professional engineer subcontracted by Petry Engineering, who had issued a traffic evaluation for the project, but opposed doing a full traffic study.

On the topic of the study, Petry acknowledged  that, “there was not an official traffic report for this project,” but the study showed “there was a significant safety concern along Lowell (Avenue), and this would solve that.”

He also pointed out that busses currently have to pass in front of the school on Gregory Avenue twice….once going in to drop off the kids on Lowell and once more leaving. “With this plan, a bus only crosses in front of Gregory once, not twice.”

In public comments, resident Drew Sawyer asked if Maltz had ever offered to do a full traffic report. Petry replied he had not, noting that any job like this always starts with traffic observations and evaluations, and then you make recommendations based on that information.

“If this were a private school, the Board would not require a full report,” he said.

Resident Joseph Berwind suggested the 2% grade would require busses to nearly stop before turning into the driveway, which would cause traffic on Gregory and possibly open up busses to traffic accidents. Petry said currently the busses have to turn from Gregory on to Walker Road, a full 100 degree turn, and do it again when they are going back, so the grade was not an issue and the bus turns likely would be faster.

Resident Heidi Sawyer said she was concerned about safety, and believed “if you dedicate a uniformed officer on Lowell, that can change the current situation.” Petry said in his opinion the base problem of having children being let out near moving cars and busses was not safe.

There were also numerous proponents of the plan in the chamber for the meeting. One was school crossing guard Marica Clark, who said she has been working at the corner of Gregory and Walker for over ten years. She noted that traffic backups and illegally parked cars on Walker were a regularity. When asked if she thought the plan would help alleviate the traffic problem and increase security, she said, “Absolutely.”

The entire McAbee family came to support the plan, with Susan McAbee saying it takes her 20 minutes to go around the block most mornings, and with the number of students and number of busses doubled in recent years, “you need accommodations to make it safe.” Resident Michael Rintzler agreed, saying with the larger numbers of students and busses, “this makes the best of a bad situation.”

Other topics that came up in comments were how the construction would affect local residents across the street, the location of portapotties and garbage dumpsters and straightening the fire hydrant.

In the end, well after midnight, Chairman Weston noted that there were some things brought up by the comments that should be considered as addendum revisions to the plan, including making sure an eight-year-old dwarf cherry tree donated as a gift by the Class of 2010 be moved and incorporated into the grounds and better signage on Lowell Avenue to make sure parents know they cannot ‘park’ for more than two minutes in the “kiss and go” area.

But after suggesting a traffic study also be recommended to take place while the project was being done, Board Members Councilwoman Susan McCartney and Lee Klein said they felt it was unnecessary. The vote was then taken and the plan passed.

Bids for the project are due in by June 8. Petry said there was every confidence that the project, started after school ends, would be completed before Opening Day in September.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for July 6.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

Evolve Cycle And Fitness Presale Happening Now!

May 18, 2018

CALDWELL, NJ - Evolve Cycle and Fitness is now offering 10 classes for only $90. That’s only $9 a class when you purchase before its official Grand Opening on Friday, June 1, 2018. 

Only two weeks left to take advantage of this limited time offer! Call Martha at 973-979-5919 or click here to sign up.

Evolve Cycle and Fitness is a Premier Fitness Boutique ...

Save Up To 20% at CNP Treasures

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Are you still looking for the perfect gift for your mom or that special someone in your life for Mother's Day? Then CNP Treasures has you covered! Save up to 20% at CNP Treasures located at 14 Northfield Ave in West Orange.

Come by this weekend so we can help you find the perfect gift! Offer expires Sunday, May ...

Montclair HS Student Reported Sexual Assault in All-Gender Bathroom, Officials Say

May 17, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - According to published reports on Wednesday, Montclair Police officials are investigating allegations of sexual assault reported to have occurred in a bathroom at Montclair High School.

Montclair police officials state that officers received a report about an incident at the high school of a sexual nature that occurred around 3:18 p.m. on Monday. The ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_3dd755d9dc476b5f4dc3_unnamed__4_

Mon, May 28, 8:00 PM

West Orange High School, West Orange

Board of Education Meeting

Community Calendar Education

Carousel_image_28c899d8572458eda4f7_mini_magick20180422-110109-8dtxfl

Tue, May 29

Essex County

Primary – Vote by Mail deadline

Carousel_image_a6317549d4614cf34367_unnamed__5_

Tue, May 29, 6:30 PM

Council Chambers, West Orange

Township Council Meeting

Clarifying Points Made in Article About WOHS Air Quality Issues

May 14, 2018

Dear Editor, 

I am the advisor to West Orange High School's student newspaper, The Pioneer. My Editor-in-Chief, Anna Favetta, is the student who researched the topic and wrote the article bringing this issue to light. She worked on the article for 4 months before she had adequate and proper information for it to go to print. 

An article on the BOE presentation of the ...

What It Means to Me - A Baseball Story

We are all in amazement of the dedication and talent of our young West Orange athletes. One of the goals of our youth sports programs is to develop our players so they are ready for high school and are prepared for success at that next level of play. Throughout the course of the year we will be featuring some of our talented young athletes and coaches. This week we have the perspective of ...

West Orange On Three!

The spring season is in full swing, and we are excited to debut this new column focusing on all things youth sports!  We thought we would kick things off with an overview of the programs West Orange has to offer, and then go behind the scenes to see what makes youth sports tick.

West Orange Police Athletic League (PAL) and Mountain Top League (MTL), together with the West Orange ...

Summer 2018 Events at the West Orange Public Library

May 15, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Beginning in June, the West Orange Public Library will offer the following events for area residents of all ages:

Dinosaurs’ Rock!                                             

Monday, June 11, 4:00 p.m.

Field Station Dinosaur visits with the ...

Funnel Cloud Appears over South Plainfield

May 16, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - A line of heavy thunderstorms roared through South Plainfield on Tuesday evening with a resident capturing a funnel cloud twisting down west and north of Spring Lake Park. The photo captures the funnel cloud, which can be seen in the left-hand side of the photo above.

The photo also captures a school bus driving by, and the South Plainfield Volunteer Fire ...

A Royal Pain

I went to a big wedding over the weekend.  It was in England.

I like to think I was invited, but according to the Royal Guards and the Thames Valley Police I was not.  But more about that later.

You see, not too long ago I received an evite addressed to me from H&M@royalwedbot.co.uk.  Curiously, it was in my spam folder with a warning message. For an evite it was pretty ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

'The Sting' with Harry Connick Jr. Slithers and Shakes at Paper Mill

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and Chicago.  Scott Joplin’s music is intertwined with the show, especially “The ...