Site might be right for bus compound
A Times Editorial
Published December 3, 2006
The Pinellas County school district hasn't yet decided whether it wants to build a school bus compound on 20 acres at the intersection of State Road 580 and McMullen-Booth Road.
But people who live near the acreage aren't waiting to see what happens. They have donned their battle gear. Like the people who lived near previous sites the school district considered for a bus compound, these residents are ready to fight.
Their concern is understandable. The school district wants a place to park and repair 300 school buses when they aren't in use.
However, this time, the location the district is studying is more appropriate than previous sites.
The land is due north of Clearwater's Northeast Water Pollution Control Facility - a fancy name for a big ol' sewer plant - east of McMullen-Booth Road just north of SR 580. A Clearwater Police Department substation/pistol range and a golf driving range are nearby.
The 20 acres of woods and open field are part of a 120-acre tract owned by the city of Clearwater. The westernmost 100 or so acres are preserved for an eventual city nature park, but the city is not opposed to the idea of the school district's taking the 20 less desirable acres adjacent to the sewer plant.
Why? Partly because of what the school district would offer the city in return if the deal went through: more than 20 acres of undeveloped land immediately south of the city's current 40-acre Lake Chautauqua Park. The property is prime for parkland.
That prospect apparently holds little appeal for opponents of the deal, mostly residents of Briar Creek Mobile Home Park, immediately north of the property the school district is studying.
They don't want a school bus compound where they have been accustomed to seeing trees and open land. They are worried about noise and lights from the compound, as well as oil and gas pollution that they fear could seep into a creek and wetlands in the area, plus a big impact on traffic on McMullen-Booth and SR 580.
Three hundred buses would be parked on the property when they weren't transporting schoolchildren. When the buses were in use, the drivers' cars would be parked there. The compound would include a bus maintenance building.
The school district is desperate for a North Pinellas bus compound because the nearest one is in mid Pinellas, near Largo. The school district is burning lots of gas, and the buses are getting extra wear and tear because they must be driven down to the mid-Pinellas compound every time drivers finish their morning and afternoon North Pinellas routes.
That is not an efficient use of either the drivers' time or the school district's strained transportation budget.
The McMullen-Booth location has some features that were lacking at previously considered sites.
- A more adequate road network. The property is served by two six-lane roads and the enormous intersection of SR 580 and McMullen-Booth. While both roads are heavily traveled, they are better suited to handle bus traffic than the narrow, two-lane streets at the Fisher Road site the school district considered in 2003.
- The area is already heavily developed. That stretch of McMullen-Booth Road has commercial office complexes, doctors' offices, recreational facilities, a pistol range, a fire station, schools, a high school football field, even a hospital. Roll your window down at the intersection and you'll hear the roar of traffic. Contrast that with the quiet, remote, almost rural flavor of sites the district previously considered on Fisher Road and Keystone Road.
- There are fewer residential properties immediately adjacent to the site. Previous sites were bordered on three or even four sides by residences.
If the school district decides to pursue the McMullen-Booth Road location for its bus compound, it should focus on sensitively designing the compound to minimize impacts on neighbors, the environment and McMullen-Booth Road.
[Last modified December 2, 2006, 22:04:33]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]