Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Private Schools In CI Zone Runs Into Council Questions

Cookeville City Council discussed the potential to allow private and parochial schools in Commercial Industrial zones as New Colossus Academy looks to build on the Mackie Farm.

Community Development Director Jon Ward said public, technical, vocational, and K-12 schools are already permitted in CI zones. He said this would align private schools with the city’s other educational uses. Council Member Eric Walker said amending the zoning code could create the chance for charter schools to be built in areas not meant for schools.

“In other states and places, when they point to charter schools, whether it’s, you know, it’s not all of them, but there are some issues where people will open up charter schools for the voucher money,” Walker said. “They’ll do it with just, it’s not with the same good faith.”

City Manager James Mills said when the Mackie Farm was annexed, the city hoped for it to be used for commercial industrial use. He said allowing more uses for CI zones creates fewer chances for those zones to be used for the intended commercial purposes, which he says is the best CI use for the city.

“I think from my perspective, looking at a perspective spot is more of a zoning classification question, not a permitted use question for the most part in this situation,” Walker said. “Because, yes, that might work to get that one use in that spot but it’s going to open up the allowance of smaller schools in our commercial industrial areas, which, to me, doesn’t fit that area.”

Ward said in this case, the Mackie Farm property would still have to have a collector segment to meet regulations for a school. He said even with a zoning code amendment, the standards for building a school would not change. He said he believes the market would likely solve the issue of smaller charter schools popping up in other CI districts.

“The decision was made and the primary reason that we went this direction was because we allow all of those other educational uses in the CI zone,” Ward said. “So it was like, why say that this can’t be there.”

Ward said if the council decides schools are not appropriate in the CI zones, it can be sent back to the Planning Commission. Council expected to vote at their meeting on Thursday.

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