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Proposed charter school prompts traffic concerns

SAN ANTONIO – Homeowners in Castle Hills are concerned with the proposed location of a new charter school.

BASIS school system plans to build a new middle and high school on South Winston Lane, just off Northwest Military, by this fall.

"When you try to put a square peg into a round hole, it doesn't fit,” says neighbor Wade Middleton.

The round hole, in this case, is a piece of land that sits between several homes.

A traffic study provided by the city of Castle Hills says the land is 4.23 acres, but a BASIS administrator says the empty plot is actually 5.1 acres.

The school system also plans to acquire about two additional acres across the street through purchase and lease.

"It's not about the fact that we don't want BASIS in Castle Hills or in San Antonio. I think when you look at their academic record, it's incredible,” Middleton says.

He’s one of dozens of neighbors who signed a petition against the project, citing traffic as their main concern.

"Absolutely worried about traffic,” Middleton says. “You can see this neighborhood is not built for traffic, at all."

Those concerns are shared by leaders at Castle Hills City Hall.

"We would love to be associated with BASIS schools. We're just not sure that's the best location for it,” says city manager Curt Van De Walle.

But he says hands are tied: under state law, in towns like Castle Hills with fewer than 20,000 people, charter schools don’t have to abide by zoning regulations for public schools.

"They have a legal right to build there,” Van De Walle says.

In an emailed statement, BASIS spokesperson Katie Perry says the site was chosen after an 18-month search amid demand for the school system’s growth.

“BASIS has and will continue to have an open dialogue with the community to address any and all concerns,” Perry wrote.

The charter school hired engineers who found Winston Lane does need to be wider and needs sidewalks. Those improvements would be costly, but the city manager says BASIS made a promise.

"Their CEO stood up and said that they would not expect the city of Castle Hills to shoulder any of the costs for infrastructure improvements to support the school,” Van De Walle says.

Hope abounds that the vocabulary word of the day is compromise.

"I hope they come to Castle Hills,” Middleton says. “But I hope they pay attention and pick a location that's not going to impact not only this neighborhood but the entire traffic flow here."

The school’s design still has to be approved by a city committee that’s slated to discuss the issue March 20.

By EMILY BAUCUM

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