By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Windsor council members don’t have control over where a new school will go, but they voiced strong objections Wednesday to building one on the town’s periphery and questioned whether it’s even needed.
“To have a school on the edge of town with one way in, and one way out, with a T-intersection, I just can’t believe it,” said Vice Mayor Debora Fudge.
“It will create a circulation nightmare,” Councilwoman Robin Goble said of the controversial Jensen Lane Elementary School proposed by the Windsor Unified School District off Vinecrest Road at the town’s eastern boundary.
She said it would “turn back the clock” on improvements the town has made, especially the suggestion to reduce the width of bicycle lanes on Hembree Lane to increase capacity for cars to and from the school.
Town Councilman Sam Salmon said the school proposal goes against most, if not all, of Windsor’s long-range planning goals by being at the edge of the urban growth boundary and in an area zoned for large-lot homes.
“The remote location of this school site can only degrade our quality of life, not improve it,” he said in a letter to the school district.
The impacts include increased traffic, greater greenhouse gas emissions, less walking, less biking, less time for the family, work and recreation “and generally a less liveable community,” he said.
Traffic jams and the school’s proximity to an earthquake fault were the top concerns voiced Wednesday by area residents, who also expressed similar objections last month at a public hearing conducted by the school district’s consultants.
Frank Dutto, who lives on Vancouver Lane, said the seismic and liquefaction risks posed to the school’s 12-acre site by nearby Rod-gers Creek fault are greater than in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park.
“It’s truly a problem waiting to happen. If I had seen the map before I bought my house, I wouldn’t have bought it,” he said.
While the school district doesn’t need approval from the Town Council to construct a new school, it is required to address significant environmental impacts and issues raised by residents and the Town of Windsor.
Windsor officials raised scores of concerns in a lengthy critique of the school’s draft environmental study, ranging from traffic to the presence of nearby agriculture, as well as issues with water, sewer and drainage systems to serve the school.
The elementary school could have a maximum of 700 students, although initially the district expects 565 students would attend.
District officials said the school is needed to ease crowding and create more permanent space for a growing student population, most of whom are taught now in portable classrooms.
Jensen Lane School would be a “grade cluster” school for all second-graders and third-graders in Windsor. The current cluster school is Windsor Creek Elementary, on the other side of the city, off Conde Lane near the Town Green Village.
School officials want to relocate those students to Jensen Lane and use Windsor Creek as an “educational center” for a variety of alternative programs.
Town Council members however, suggested the new school isn’t needed and that the district could keep Windsor Creek for second- and third-grade students by adding a two-story design.
Council members Wednesday also said the school district should consider reverting to neighborhood schools to keep students closer to home instead of traveling across town.
Windsor planners say the draft environmental review provides an incomplete and inadequate analysis of alternative sites.
School officials have estimated the cost of the Jensen Lane school at $28 million. But critics questioned whether bond funds approved by Windsor voters can be used for road improvements and off-site environmental mitigations.
Town Council members said Windsor doesn’t have the money to build new circulation roads to ease congestion the school would cause.