More trees to be destroyed at Great Falls High
Just when you thought the City of Great Falls was prepared to do the right thing and tell the school district that no more City trees would be sacrificed for the misguided alterations at Great Falls High, the City lifted the Stop Order and the Design Review Board approved the District’s plans.
DRB Chairperson, Dani Grebe was the only voice of reason, when she commented, “This isn’t all finalized and it is too early to vote if the plans are changing”.
In spite of the fact that GFPS plans are not finalized and are changing, City staff reported that the issues prompting the Stop Order have “been resolved”, and that the District’s plans are mostly consistent with City codes.
One condition included in the DRB’s approval was to examine the blocking of east-west pedestrian traffic along what was 4th Avenue South.
Presently, the connection of the Hub addition design would not allow pedestrians from east of GFH to access Memorial Stadium without traveling to either 2nd or 5th Avenues. Independent architects raised the concern at the June 13th meeting of the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission and cautioned that the District’s plan was not an example of good campus planning and that a better design solution exists.
In fact, the District’s own Seattle architectural firm wrote this concerning their work at Stadium High school in Tacoma, WA:
“Critical to the design was the physical separation of the addition from the landmark.” –Bassetti Architects
Doesn’t Great Falls High School deserve the same respect?
How could this all be happening?
One has to understand the “special” relationship between the City Commission and the Great Falls Public School District. In many respects, I think the school district has more influence on what goes on in Great Falls than does City government.
I’m sure City staff tries its best to uniformly apply City ordinances and guidelines, but when you are talking about the school district, the reality is that the process gets politicized. So, it would appear that streets will be altered, parks will be converted to parking lots, requirements for sidewalks and landscaping will be modified, trees will be destroyed, historic buildings will be degraded, or demolished, and rules will be enforced to the convenience of the school district.