Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Closing street isn't only possible solution
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 5, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 4, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.
A growing school is a healthy school. Expansion often signals a thriving student population and the need for more room to accommodate these budding minds. Growth often involves growing pains, but that's natural.
St. Joseph High School plans to expand by building a new arts and athletics facility that will double as an emergency shelter, but the new facility will be placed across De Leon Street from the rest of the campus. School officials worry this will present a safety issue to students, who will have to cross this street to reach some of their classes.
To prevent this, St. Joseph proposed a trade with the city of Victoria. On Wednesday night, the city gave preliminary approval to trade this specific block of De Leon Street for three blocks of 9.7-foot-wide right of way, as well as an $11,700 payment from St. Joseph, and the school will pay the city up to $25,000 for utility repairs under the street.
Some residents of the College Park neighborhood, however, do not agree with this proposal. At Wednesday night's city council meeting, De Leon Street resident Charla Borchers presented a petition with more than 70 signatures opposing the street closure. She said residents support St. Joseph's desire to expand, but think the current plan will have a negative effect on nearby homes.
We agree that St. Joseph's expansion is an important plan to improve the school, and we recognize the concern for student safety. However, we encourage the city council, as well as St. Joseph and neighborhood residents, to take another look at this plan and try to reach a compromise before making a final decision.
The proposal submitted by Councilman Emett Alvarez during Wednesday's meeting is one possible compromise. He proposed the city designate the portion of road fronting the school a no-parking zone and closing it to thru-traffic from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is a method used by other schools in the Crossroads and could give students a safe method of crossing the street during the school day while leaving the road open for traffic the rest of the time.
At the same time, the concerns about street access to the neighborhood should not be a stumbling block. All of the homes have access to major roads, and closing off this one block will not trap residents or even restrict their movements much. Residents are also concerned about an increase in student traffic through their neighborhoods if the street is closed. This is a concern, but it is also a typical issue associated with living in close proximity to any school.
We think there are legitimate concerns on both sides of this issue. It is St. Joseph's main concern to ensure the safety of students, but residents worry closing the street completely will worsen traffic and access to their neighborhoods. Each group has valid points, and all involved should work together to find a solution.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.