WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

EAST LONGMEADOW — The Planning Board approved the site plan for construction of the new East Longmeadow High School and demolition of the current building during its May 7 meeting. The board agreed to the plan as presented under the condition that certain specified requests be met.

In the approved site plan, the new high school will contain separate areas for bus, family and loading dock traffic as well as an outside dining area, a play area for pre-K students, and one primary entrance on Maple Street, SMMA Landscape Architect Erik Vangsness stated. There will be 464 parking spaces available that will be divided into separate areas across the campus.

For athletic areas, there will be six tennis and pickleball courts, two basketball courts and a throwing wall as well as the current turf field with a new press box and concessions area. The campus will also include varsity softball and baseball fields, junior varsity softball and baseball fields, soccer and lacrosse fields, a junior varsity football field and a javelin area, Vangsness said.

“[The campus’s] primary function is for the school and administrating the school’s education program. Also, their athletic program and events such as graduation,” Vangsness explained. “But this site also is a valuable community resource and there are a lot of community events that happen here that needed to be accommodated as part of the program.”

One significant discussion at the hearing concerned the difference in traffic with the current high school compared to expected traffic with the new building. Tighe and Bond Traffic Engineers Matthew Stoutz and Greg Lucas presented a traffic study to the Planning Board, stating that conditions were “generally found acceptable” in both the building’s current and future versions.

“As traffic engineers, we look at an ‘A’ to ‘F’ scale. ‘A’ being the best and ‘F’ being the worst. So generally, we were seeing ‘C’s and ‘D’s, which is widely considered acceptable,” Stoutz said.

He went on to highlight that the new high school’s driveway did receive a failing grade during the morning peak time when parents are dropping off students. However, Stoutz stated that this situation does not delay traffic on Maple Street and “dissipates pretty quickly.”

While there are signs alerting drivers of a school, the current building is not considered a school zone due to state regulations and the distanced entrance driveways, Lucas explained. Furthermore, although the speed limit is 35 mph in the area, most drivers travel 5 mph above this limit, he said.

With the new driveway located directly across from Melwood Avenue and updated state regulations, the new high school will be within a school zone. As a result, during prescribed times, the speed limit will be 20 mph, Lucas stated.

Additionally, Stoutz stated that the new high school’s driveway will be in a better location than the current driveways because it will allow drivers to better watch for students and is located further away from the nearby slope in the road.

In its final approval of the site plan, the Planning Board listed requirements and recommendations, which were raised during the public hearing portion of the meeting. For requirements, the board highlighted that all plants that are placed along the property’s border of Susan Street should be no less than 8 feet and that construction on the site must take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, as stated by Chair Russell Denver.

For recommendations, the board requested that Town Manager Tom Christensen speak with the Police Department about enforcing the “No Parking” signs along Norton Street, Barrie Road and Susan Street.

Members also recommended to the Town Council that “No Parking” signs be placed on both sides of Melwood Avenue, Denver said.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts