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Park Hill's plan to build school on untouched forest moves forward

Posted at 4:24 PM, Nov 06, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's been an ongoing battle between conservation and the need for growth.

Tuesday, the Park Hill School District fought for approval to build on an untouched forest in the Northland. Public comment lasted more than two hours as people debated the issue. 

"For me, the northland has meant getting away from all of the hustle and bustle," said Stephanie Pratt. 

Pratt stood in line waiting to speak out against construction. Her biggest concern is what she feels has been a lack of conversation between the community and school board. 

"We don't see each other as neighbors anymore, we see each other as those stereotypes of those who want to save the environment or the types who just want to better their own children," said Pratt. 

The Park Hill School District see's things differently. 

"There's only a requirement to communicate with the people that actually touch the property but we went way, way above that and we sent out postcards to several thousand other people," said Nicole Kirby, Director of Communication Services, Park Hill School District. 

Tuesday, the district was seeking approval for a Special Use Permit to build a high school facility on the Line Creek Forest. Currently, the land is zoned for residential use only. Some people in attendance feel that could be worse. 

"I think that they are going to develop the land much more responsibly than a private developer would," said Justin Barton, Park Hill School District Parent. 

Barton has three kids in Park Hill Schools. He feels the district's plans will conserve areas of the forest and provide a school close by for his kids. 

"My kids could potentially bicycle to school, not have to ride a bus, not have to drive a car, and that's a lower impact development there," said Barton. 

Hopeland Elementary is currently being built on the land. With the permit, the district could begin on the Lead Innovation Studio which could later expand into a third high school if needed. 

"We've grown 1 to 2 percent every year for the last 35 years so we're growing and we're growing at a steady rate," said Kirby. 

After much debate, the commission motioned to move the issue forward. It will go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at City Hall.