“You can’t fight City Hall,” Jack Kerouac once wrote. He never met the neighbors of Sun Prairie West High School, who on Feb. 11 successfully won their fight to change a planned street connection into their neighborhood. Instead of a street, the stub will become a pedestrian-bike path used to access the new school.
Neighbors packed the Council Chambers at the Sun Prairie Municipal Building and denounced any plans for the city to connect the private driveway serving Sun Prairie West High School into a residential neighborhood through Duet Place.
Currently, Duet is shown as a stub street, and was recommended to be used as a pedestrian and bike path to serve the new school, which the Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) wants to construct in time for the 2022-23 school year.
But one after another, residents spoke against extending Duet into the high school property. One resident said extending the street would never benefit his children, who would walk to the new high school.
A Scott Trail resident read city ordinances which prohibited Duet to be connected from the high school using a residential street. Both Blue Heron and Ironwood Drive will also service the high school property.
Another Ironwood Drive resident, Bob Hilby, said he believed the time had come for the City of Sun Prairie to make Highway 19 four lanes from Highway C to Highway 51, and that the entrance to the school should come from 19.
Community Development Director Scott Kugler said a meeting with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) indicated the property had not met the warrants for a traffic signal or Highway 19 access.
Kugler further argued in favor of connecting Duet to the high school property, saying that the city strives to connect neighborhoods. Otherwise, he said, traffic congestion occurs on major streets and arterials. Connecting the high school property with Duet and Rebel Drive provides access from both the east and the west.
The president of the Ironwood Drive Homeowners Association told commissioners he submitted a petition to Sun Prairie alders opposing the Duet extension. Based on his experience, the former Long Island, NY firefighter told the mayor that routing heavy traffic through a residential street would result in injuries and possibly fatalities.
Mayor Paul Esser asked for the commission to decide to leave Duet a bike-pedestrian connection only, but for the city to purchase the right-of-way from the SPASD in the event the city needs to extend the road in the future.
The connection from Rebel Drive to the new private drive serving Sun Prairie West High School was also an issue worth challenging.
SPASD Director of Facilities and Grounds Kevin Sukow told commissioners that while there was a polite disagreement with the connection, the ultimate responsibility of the SPASD was for safety of students, and not facilitating traffic.
But commissioners disagreed, allowing the city to add the desired intersection as a connection to the new private drive. The new private drive must be constructed to city standards, with curb and gutter, according to Kugler.
Commissioners approved the certified survey map for the school on a 8-0 vote.
Commissioners also considered a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow construction of the 450,000 square foot Sun Prairie West High School for students in grades 9-12 with associated athletic fields located on approximately 126 acres south of Windsor Street and roughly one-third of a mile west of Grand Avenue.
A track facility and soccer field will locate directly north of the school, south of the Rebel Drive extension with tennis courts, softball and baseball fields, and practice football fields located north of the road extension, south of Windsor Street. Lighting for evening events will be provided for the track and soccer field, and for the eastern softball and baseball fields.
The staff report by City Planner Sarah Sauer said the proposed school will consist of varying one-, two-, and three-story sections with a peak height of 55 feet. Primary public entrances will be from the north side of the building for the performing arts center, athletic spaces, and pool. A central commons/cafeteria and outdoor courtyard classroom are also on the first floor. The three-story section of the building will overlook the open space to the south and contain the core academic classrooms. Exterior building materials feature combinations of masonry, brick, and stone.
Proposed hours of operation are similar to the existing high school, from 8:00 am to 3:14 pm, Monday through Friday, including evening and weekend extracurricular activities. Exact schedules will be determined closer to school opening, which is anticipated for the Fall 2022-23 school year.
Sauer also wrote in the staff report to the plan commission that using the school’s projections, the new school will require 451 parking stalls by ordinance. However, the calculated parking is based on employee and student count only and does not address parking for the athletic fields.
By ordinance, Active Outdoor Public Recreational uses require one space per four expected patrons at maximum
capacity for any use requiring over five spaces. Per the applicant, the provided parking is to accommodate teachers, staff, visitors for both the school and athletic events, and the quantity of student parking passes available.
The school’s plans show a total of 964 parking stalls — more than double what would be required by ordinance for the projected use of the school only.
Commissioners voted 7-1, with commissioner Kevin Wait voting no.
The CUP and CSM proceed next to the Sun Prairie City Council, scheduled to act on both items as part of its Feb. 18 agenda, according to Esser.