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Breitung to start new Woodland entrance road despite objections

KINGSFORD — Breitung Township Schools will build an additional entrance road to Woodland Elementary School off of North Pyle Drive, despite protests from neighboring homeowners.

The school district acquired a parcel north of the school five years ago but hadn’t followed through on a project. On Monday, after hearing nearly a half-hour of complaints about the road, board members agreed to seek more input from residents but held firm on getting it done.

The new road is intended to ease traffic congestion near the school, which is accessed only from the south off of Pyle Drive. The planned north entrance, about 50 yards in length, is a short distance from the intersection of Woodward Avenue and North Pyle Drive near Balzola Field.

Andrew Wiltzius of 156 North Pyle Drive said the neighborhood — which petitioned against the project when the property was acquired — was “blindsided” recently by a five-line letter sent by the district announcing the project would begin.

“When and where did the board action occur?” he asked. “Where was the communication?”

David Wilton, a resident at 132 North Pyle Drive, said the new road will run 40 feet from a bedroom wall. He claimed the district isn’t solving a traffic problem, just relocating it by “shuffling the chaos.”

Garth and Sheila Beauchamp of 124 Pyle Drive raised safety concerns, saying North Pyle Drive isn’t designed for heavy traffic.

With the board observing social distancing, citizens were required to enter the meeting room individually. About 10 people spoke, including several who asked if board members would want a school entrance where they live. Others claimed there hadn’t been a formal study on whether the road was a good idea.

During an ensuring board-only discussion, livestreamed on the district’s website, Treasurer Doug McDowell said the new entrance is what’s best for the district. “This project was approved by the board (years ago) and just put on the back burner,” he said, adding, “We can limit how we use it.”

McDowell said he would favor a fence along the road, with residents helping select the design.

Trustee Mark Pugh said the board should “be neighborly” going forward, doing all it can to address concerns. Many worries, he said, could be eased by giving more information.

Superintendent Craig Allen acknowledged there is a “personal interest” at stake in the neighborhood, but said there was “every chance” for any homeowner to acquire the property before the district became interested.

As work on the estimated $12,000 to $15,000 project begins, the district must still decide how the new traffic flow will be handled. Several options are being considered, with coronavirus guidelines a key factor, Woodland Principal Darren Petschar said.

In other action, the school board:

— Tentatively set Wednesday, Aug. 26, as the first day of school for students.

— Scheduled a board workshop for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, July 9.

— Reacted positively, in general, to news of a state budget agreement that would provide federal COVID-19 relief funding but also reduce per-pupil aid.

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