Allen residents battle over bus barn location

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on October 13, 2011 at 8:22 PM

ALLEN - The raging issue in this suburban city has centered around where to park its school buses. One location has already been nixed because of a neighborhood outcry.

Now board members are facing a new fight over a second location.
 
"It's very, very frustrating," said school board member Louise Master. "It's extremely difficult to find the land you want that's going to make everybody happy."
 
Since voters approved a bond package in 2009, the Allen school district has been searching for a fitting home for its new $36.5 million service center. The site must not only hold and service the district's 125 buses, but also warehouse district supplies ranging from food to textbooks.

The buses, however, are what most trouble neighbors.
 
"I think the biggest concerns we've got are pollution, property values, noise and traffic," said neighbor Sudeep Gupta.

Gupta joined with homeowners' associations to protest the district's plans. The group has launched petition drives and set up a website, www.stopthebarn.org.
 
The district has already backed down to neighborhood concerns once.

Originally the service center - or bus barn, as many critics prefer to call it - was to be built on Malone Road in Parker. Neighbors there were furious.

So the school board decided in July to search for another piece of property. The next month, the district settled on 43 acres at Watters Road and Bossy Boots Drive on the city's western side.
 
"I'm not aware of any better location," said assistant superintendent Mark Tarpley.  "[The board] purchased that location with the intent of building a service center there."
 
Although the site is near some light industrial properties, several new subdivisions surround it with homes in the $300,000 range. Homeowners there say the new proposed location is no better than the last.
 
"They just found a piece of property, bought it and ran with it," Gupta said. "Let's go back to the drawing board ... to come up with a constructive solution that makes sense."
 
The district says it has found the solution. Officials point to a nearby warehouse as evidence its facility belongs there. Designers promise the property will not impose on neighbors.
 
"It's not going to be 40 acres of buses," said district spokesperson Tim Carroll. "It's not like we're going to build some ugly thing in the road!"
 
Although board members intend to discuss the controversy at their Oct. 24 meeting, board member Louise Master said trustees seem pretty confident they'll continue with plans to have the center built on the new site by 2014.
 
"Personally I would love to please everybody, but that is not possible," she said. "We've got to make some tough decisions."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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