The Oak Ridge City Council has postponed a vote on selecting a site for the new Oak Ridge Preschool until after a meeting in Scarboro next week.
The Oak Ridge Board of Education unanimously selected Scarboro Park, off Carver Avenue in central Oak Ridge, as the site for the new preschool in February.
The Council was expected to vote on that site on Monday.
But after hearing from a few people who had questions about the proposed site, Council agreed in a 4-3 vote to defer its site selection until after a March 23 meeting in Scarboro. Council could now vote during a special meeting on March 27.
Besides Scarboro Park, officials had previously looked at two other options. One, Elm Grove Park in east Oak Ridge, had been identified as the preferred site after a preschool report was published in October 2015. But there has been opposition, including a petition drive, to building the new preschool there.
Another, the Scarboro Community Center, has been ruled out because of the work required to move dirt and level the site, and because the preschool uses would not be compatible with the existing uses of the center’s administrative area and gymnasium.
Officials have said that the Scarboro community has welcomed the idea of building the new preschool at Scarboro Park. A few representatives of the community have attended public meetings on the project.
But on Monday, one resident said people still have questions, and there’s not been a public forum to ask the residents of Scarboro how they feel about the project. Among the questions: Will my property taxes go up? How will construction affect the neighborhood? Will the park still be there after the preschool is built? How will Carver Avenue be affected?
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson responded to many of the questions. There’s been no decision on the re-routing of Carver Avenue, he said. The park will exist after the preschool is built, and there is enough space to accommodate recreational structures, Watson said. He said there would be some construction impacts to the neighborhood, and it’s too early to say whether the new building, which would not be taxable, would affect property taxes in the neighborhood.
No one will be forced out of their homes to build the preschool, Watson said in response to a question, and the architect will meet with neighborhood residents.
Those who supported the two-week delay suggested it would be respectful to allow Scarboro residents a chance to provide input. They suggested that the short delay wouldn’t have a major impact on the overall project, considering that it’s been in the works for many years.
Others who want to proceed without any more delays, including a few school board members, said the city’s been talking about building a new preschool since the mid-1980s, and there have been ample opportunities, including in several recent meetings and work sessions that have been covered by local media, for residents and other members of the public to comment.
Voting to defer the site selection vote for two weeks, until after the meeting in Scarboro, were Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch, Mayor Pro Tem Rick Chinn, and Council members Ellen Smith and Hans Vogel.
Voting against the deferral were City Council members Kelly Callison, Jim Dodson, and Chuck Hope.
The community meeting in Scarboro has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at the Scarboro Community Center. It’s a public meeting.
Council could then take action during a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 27.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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