In our previous posts addressing solutions for solving the parking shortage for GFHS, we have outlined the school district’s plan and our plan.
Currently, GFHS has approximately 380 on-campus parking spots, which is by conservative measure about 300 short.
In order to address the parking shortage, the school district is planning to pursue three approaches.
The first, remove a substantial portion of the fabric of the picturesque and historic original campus landscaped open space on the northeast corner at 20th Street and 2nd Avenue South.
The beautiful treed campus is what makes Great Falls High School a very special and cohesive part of the neighborhood which can never be duplicated. A major reason why GFHS was selected as the most beautiful high school in Montana by Architectural Digest magazine.
The second, buy multiple single family residentially zoned 50’ x 150’ lots in the neighborhoods surrounding the school, rezone the properties, demolish the structures and build mini parking lots of no more than 20 parking space on each. The GFPS school board has already approved the purchase of the historic Campfire property and building at 1925 2nd Avenue South. The offer to pay $100K is contingent upon the City of Great Falls granting a zone change.
The third, is to acquire approximately 1/3 of Kranz Park to the west of Memorial Stadium for a large surface parking lot. This approach would also require a zone change.
Our architectural firm has advocated for a different approach to solve the parking problem at GFHS, structured parking on the existing one entire block of the practice Field. This became a real possibility when the school district installed an artificial surface in Memorial Stadium which now allows the football team to practice in the stadium.
The District’s options 2 and 3 requiring re-zoning of neighborhood single family properties and Kranz park will not be a “walk in the park, or the neighborhood” given the City’s attitude about liquidating park land, or approving “spot zoning”.
What is spot zoning?
From an article by ELYSSE JAMES | Orange County Register
March 13, 2012
“Spot zoning is when one area’s use differs from its surroundings; in this case, the surrounding area is designated as single family residential. It can be deemed illegal when it is not compatible with the existing zoning designations or with a community zoning plan.”
A judge has decided the Orange County Board of Supervisors used illegal spot zoning practices for a proposed senior living community in North Tustin that has been the subject of debate for three years.
Judge Gail Andler ruled that the zone change from single family residential to senior residential housing is illegal spot zoning, and that the county will have to cancel its approval of the Springs at Bethsaida development. https://www.ocregister.com/2012/03/13/judge-rules-illegal-spot-zoning-in-north-tustin-case/
So zoning is a problem for the District.
The District’s first option should elicit a negative vote from the Montana State Historic Preservation Office and the Great Falls Historic Preservation Commission.
So why won’t the GFPS school district consider structured parking solution to the problem? They are currently saying and have repeatedly said in the past that they don’t have the $5M in available funds to build a parking structure for 300 cars.
Here’s the idea.
The district still needs to build a new Longfellow school. Why not use the much acclaimed design used for the new Giant Springs Elementary? The exact same school, but with a different name. That would save architectural and engineering fees and involve only minor changes; Maybe a different color palette. The new GSE is of relatively light weight construction and would be suited for soils conditions at the Longfellow site.
“The district still needs to build a new Longfellow school. Why not use the much acclaimed design used for the new Giant Springs Elementary? The exact same school, but with a different name. That would save architectural and engineering fees and involve only minor changes; Maybe a different color palette. The new GSE is of relatively light weight construction and would be suited for soils conditions at the Longfellow site.”
Students that happen to transfer from one school to the other would quickly recognize the same floor plan, where the offices were located, how to get to the restrooms, gym and library. Why try to reinvent the wheel?
The same contractor could be hired to build both schools and the district could potentially realize enough of a cost savings to make up the difference to build a parking structure at GFHS and solve a 50 year old problem without adversely affecting the GFHS campus, or the neighborhood surrounding it.
Well Tammy, tell us how you really feel about solving the parking problem at GFHS. Here’s what Superintendent Lacey wrote in a recent form Email to those who have expressed their feelings about the District’s plans:
“Finally I note that I would prefer not spending any money on parking.”