Penn Township supervisors approve preliminary plan for new Avon Grove High School
By Steven Hoffman
The Penn Township Board of Supervisors went into a brief executive session at the Feb. 5 township meeting before voting to grant conditional preliminary approval for the new Avon Grove High School site plan. The supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of the resolution, with Curtis Mason, the chairman of the board of supervisors, abstaining because he owns property adjacent to the school site.
The adoption of the resolution paves the way for the submission of the final plan to the township, with that final plan including the conditions being satisfied.
“We are pleased to have progressed so expeditiously and considerately with such an important project for our region,” said Victor Mantegna, the vice chair of the Penn Township Board of Supervisors in a statement. “We are confident that our handling of this process has taken into consideration all the parties affected in a thoughtful and meaningful way. We are proud that the resulting plan reflects that process.”
School District officials met with the Penn Township Planning Commission on Jan. 22 to go over details of the plans for the new high school site. The design of the school includes a three-story classroom wing, two interior courtyards, a full-size gym and an auxiliary gym, and an auditorium. Sports facilities include six tennis courts, a track, a football field, possibly with synthetic turf, multi-purpose fields, a softball field and baseball field.
The 150-acre parcel is located with access off Jennersville Road and Baltimore Pike as well as frontage off Sunnyside Road. Estimated costs for the building alone, as revealed at school board meetings, total $75.6 million. With site costs, off-site improvements, soft costs and contingencies, the total cost of the project is estimated at $106.2 million.
The plan has gone through a zoning hearing process to address issues including landscaping, lighting, and curbing. The Penn Township Board of Supervisors’ preliminary final approval includes a list of conditions from the zoning hearing, planning commission, and the board of supervisors.
Some of the conditions include additional landscape buffering at the south end of the site near the softball and baseball fields. A grass road will be established connecting the ball fields with the south parking lot so that emergency vehicles can access the fields in case of emergency. The road will be gated and limited to emergency and maintenance vehicles.
Responses to residents’ questions on stormwater management at the site revealed that there are seven basins included as part of the plans to keep water on site. About one-third of the total lot size is designated as a bog turtle habitat, and will remain undeveloped.
The district asked for some verbiage changes to some items. One such change pertains to sports fields with no permanent sound or lighting systems and no portable lighting being included as part of this plan. By noting that the restriction goes with this plan, there is no permanent prohibition on lighting, leaving the possibility of returning with an application for sports field lighting at a future date.
The biggest financial impact may be the $500,000-plus traffic impact fee the school district will be paying the township.
With the preliminary plan approval, the district is on track to put the project out for bids by March 9, with approval of the winning bids at a special school board meeting on May 14. Construction could start this summer with the construction of the high school completed in time for a move to the new building during summer 2022.
In other business at the Feb. 5 meeting, residents are advised to take a look at the township’s new website at www.penntownship.us, which went live on Jan. 30. The new website design can be updated as frequently as needed by township staff. “We can actually change things on it ourselves, we no longer need a web master to do that,” Karen Versuk, the township’s director of operations, said.
The site includes a new option to subscribe to receive information and alerts from the township.
One service available to residents is discounted tickets to popular attractions. Tickets for the Philadelphia Flower Show and lift tickets for ski resorts are available at deep discounts by calling or stopping by the township building.
The township also has a Facebook page that regularly gets lots of views. “One post traveled to 300,000 people and was picked up by news outlets across the state,” Versuk said.
For those who prefer information in print, the latest township newsletter is in the mail for residents.