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||New Orleans, LA
||As President of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association (UTNA) and one who has been involved with the numerous meetings about the renovations at Audubon Charter School (ACS), I would like clarify a lot of incorrect information being published, emailed and reported. The items of clarification are as follows:
1. The care taker's cottage will not be demolished prior to this comment session. This demolition was presented early in the community meetings last year with minimal disapproval. Options of using it in the new design and relocating it were studied and discussed, but none were feasible.
2. ACS is not exempt from renovating a historic structure such as the care taker's cottage - historic structures are designated by proper agencies to protect them. Most buildings in the uptown area are not protected and are not required by law to be renovated/restored - some owners choose to do so but some choose to rebuild
3. The size of the project - the existing building is approximately 35,000 sqft and the new total will be 53,000 sqft with no planned increase in student population and therefore no increase in traffic.
4. ACS response to neighbor's concerns - OPSB, ACS Charter Board & Administration have had a number of meetings with neighbors to discuss their issues. As a result, OPSB has implemented a resolution to help coordinate deliveries, a traffic officer, a crossing guard, and to partner with the neighborhood in lobbying the City to address traffic & parking concerns. This resolution can be viewed at http://www.uptowntriangle.com/resource-center . In addition, the ACS Board & Administration has received a grant from Louisiana Safe Routes to School. This program encourages students to walk & bike to school by improving street & sidewalk conditions around the school and neighborhood and by implementing a remote drop off location. This grant includes among others items, crossing & no parking pavement markings, flashing school beacon signs & sidewalk repairs. These actions show that the school is committed to make major improvements that will be beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood concerning the traffic and congestion issues.
5. ACS is one charter school with two programs, a Montessori program and a French program. Their diversity & support of each other is one of the reasons the two programs have been successful.
6. BZA's Granting of the setback will not destroy the street scape of Pine St -the waiver allows the building to conform more closely to the building setbacks of the surrounding neighborhood. The street scape is going to change, but to say it is going to be destroy is a matter of opinion and not facts.
7. The addition will not block significant sunlight. Pine St is lined with large trees and the new addition will have a minimal effect of sunlight reaching neighboring homes.
8. The addition will not violate neighbors' privacy - the addition will be 10' from the property line with another 40' across a tree lined street to the neighbor's property line. It is important to note that the existing care taker's cottage scheduled to be removed is on the property line along Pine St.
9. The existing traffic concerns are exaggerated. Yes, there are parents parking in driveways and there have been a lack of organized drop off and pick up procedures, but with the commitments by ACS mentioned above there should be a great improvement.
10. The law suit that is filed is an appeal to the Board of Zoning & Adjustment's (BZA) ruling on ACS request for a 10' waiver of the building setback line along Pine St. The appeal has been filed by individual neighbors and the Upper Audubon Association (UAA - in which their boundary lies on the up river side of Broadway and bisects the school's property and includes property towards Audubon Park).
11. UTNA is in support of the renovation/addition of ACS which lies entirely in UTNA boundaries. UTNA has worked diligently to resolve many of the neighborhood issues and believes ACS is acting on good faith and will become a better neighbor in the future.
I believe it is important to remember that we are all part of this great community and must work together to make it a great place to live. Audubon Charter School is one of the top performing public schools in Orleans Parish, and as President of UTNA, I am committed to work with the school to make our neighborhood and City a better place. I ask all of our neighbors to stop fighting ACS and start working with ACS for a better way of life for the children and all New Orleanais.