New Riverside campus plan approved by Bluffton commission

mmcnab@islandpacket.comJune 29, 2014 

This rendering shows the layout for a new public high school in the New Riverside area set to open during the 2015-16 school year. The school, which is still unnamed, will intially enroll about 900 students but can be expanded to accommodate 1,800 students.

SUBMITTED — Submitted rendering

Bluffton's Planning Commission supports the campus layout for a new public high school in the New Riverside area, but wants a better traffic plan for elementary and middle schools that might be built there.

The layout approved Wednesday outlines the roads and trails that will encircle the campus along New Riverside Road. The high school, expected to open during the 2015-16 school year, will be on 31 acres.

On 48 acres north of the high school elementary and middle schools may be built. The master plan from the Beaufort County School District included only one access point to those schools

Commission members unanimously recommended approval of the plan on the condition that a second access point to the elementary and middle school sites be added. The plan now goes to the Bluffton Town Council.

School district officials asked to be allowed to add the access road when they submit plans for the elementary and middle schools, so construction of the high school won't be delayed. Enrollment projections indicate those schools won't be needed for at least five years, district chief operational services officer Phyllis White said.

The commission suggested that the secondary access either connect to the road around the high school campus, near a 6-acre site for an athletics field or directly at New Riverside Road. Commission members said the secondary access to the elementary and middle schools would allow for better traffic flow and increased emergency access -- concerns the town's Development Review Committee also expressed earlier this month.

However, a third entrance might not be possible.

The district bought the land for the schools from Crescent Communities, which is developing Palmetto Bluff, and the purchase agreement stipulates that the campus have only two exits to New Riverside Road, district facilities planning and construction officer Robert Oetting said.

Traffic east along New Riverside Road toward Palmetto Bluff would also be restricted, per the district's contract with Crescent, Palmetto Bluff spokeswoman Courtney Hampson said. The agreement would require most traffic to use New Riverside Road's western spur, which connects with May River Road and S.C. 170 at a traffic circle five miles from the school site.

Construction on the high school, which does not yet have a name, is expected to begin in the fall and take 20 months, school district spokesman Jim Foster said. The price to build the school is expected to cost between $35 and $40 million, according to estimates announced when the school expansion was approved by the district.

The school will have an initial enrollment of about 900 students AND a maximum enrollment of 1,400 students, but can be expanded to accommodate 1,800, White said.

White said the school would have a main building and a building for career and technical education.

A 150-foot-wide wooded buffer will separate the campus from New Riverside Drive, town senior planner Pat Rooney said. Five stormwater ponds will be placed around the high school, and three more are planned for the elementary and middle schools' sections, he said.

Trails will circle the campus, which is surrounded by wetlands. The Planning Commission also recommended connecting part of the trails with a boardwalk over the wetlands, noting the benefit it might have for science classes.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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