Advocate editorial board opinion: It's time to allow St. Joseph expansion, move forward

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 9, 2013 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 9, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.

Disputes between neighbors are common problems. When people live in close proximity to one another, eventually someone is going to step on some toes. Usually, there is no intention to cause harm or strife, and both parties can work out a mature, acceptable compromise.

In the case of St. Joseph High School's expansion plans, some residents of the surrounding College Park neighborhood do not want the school's request for the city to close De Leon Street to be granted. Others think the closure can be a good thing for both the school and the neighborhood.

We are inclined to agree with the latter. St. Joseph has been a part of the Victoria community since it was founded in 1868. In 140 years, the school has remained on the same campus as homes and neighborhoods grew up around it. Now, after sharing the neighborhoods with residents, the school has the chance to expand their campus. For that to happen, the school proposed a deal to close a single block of De Leon Street between Red River Street and Virginia Avenue, and school officials have given some compelling reasons for the city to agree to the closure.

First, the city has set a precedent of selling streets to institutions. The city sold streets to both Citizens Medical Center and DeTar Hospital Navarro. St. Joseph is proposing a trade of property. The school will give the city a quarter-acre section of property along Red River Street as a right of way, as well as an $11,700 payment and an agreement to pay up to $25,000 for utility repairs under De Leon Street. This would not only pay the city for the single block but also allow the city to expand Red River Street to put in an extra lane or a turn lane in the future.

The school is also concerned about the safety of students, who will need to cross De Leon Street to get to their classes in the new athletic facility when it is built. It is true, these are high school students who should be mature enough to cross a street safely, but it only takes a moment of carelessness on the part of both a student and an inattentive driver to create a disaster. It would be far better to remove the possibility entirely than to risk a possibly dangerous situation.

Some residents are concerned that closing De Leon Street will limit access to major streets, as well as increase traffic problems in their neighborhoods. However, this argument does not hold up well. The neighborhood has several options to access both Red River and Navarro streets. Closing one block will not create a substantial problem when there are seven or eight others that connect to major streets. As for the traffic issue, there may be an increase at certain times of day, but the street closure would allow St. Joseph to increase school parking, which would mean fewer students parking on neighborhood streets.

We agree with the city council's vote to close De Leon Street and sell it to St. Joseph. This is a school that has served Victoria students faithfully for generations, and we hope to see this expansion bring even more success in the future.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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