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Keswick neighbors learn of changes

Having scrapped plans to expand, the Christian school looks at drainage and traffic improvements and a new running track.

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 21, 2001

SEMINOLE -- Housh Ghovaee and Elton Jones laid out plans for Keswick Christian School improvements Monday for the Seminole development review board.

Ghovaee talked about drainage, traffic concerns and a new eight-lane running track. But he did not talk about a new building.

That's because plans to erect an 18,690-square-foot building at its property at 10101 54th Ave. N were dropped last week by Keswick officials.

"Our main concern is no more buildings," said Francis Halter, a Keswick neighbor and sometimes critic. "They've got 17 buildings now."

Ghovaee, president of Northside Engineering, said the drainage plan will include several detention ponds, berms and other things to alleviate neighbors' concerns about the property, which slopes downward from west to northeast.

"We've been hearing you loud and clear that there were some drainage issues," Ghovaee said. "And we think we've addressed them."

Other improvements covered at Monday's advisory meeting included a 6-foot fence on the grounds facing 54th Avenue; an eight-lane, state-of-the-art running track around the football field; and paved parking lots.

Jones, vice president of the Rosier/Jones Associates Inc. architectural firm, discussed the proposed paved lots and how one-way traffic into the school (and out 100th Way) during school hours will help alleviate traffic on 54th Avenue N.

"Our No. 1 concern is safety," said Jones.

Earlier Monday, Keswick Headmaster Shirley Owen said the site plan for improvements has already been approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, and presented to the Seminole City Council.

"Tonight's meeting is just a courtesy to let people, our neighbors, know what is happening," said Mrs. Owen. "As soon as we get our permits, we want to start on the fence to enhance our entrance."

She estimated that construction could begin in about a month. The fence would be decorative aluminum with an electric gate that would be locked during off hours. A simple chain-link fence will continue around the rest of the property.

The other improvements won't be made until June, when the youngsters are out of school, Mrs. Owen said.

Lance Lipham, head coach of the boys and girls track teams and cross country teams, is excited about the prospect of having an eight-lane, 400-meter track facility at the school.

"For the six years I've been here, we haven't had anything other than the football field," Lipham said. "It will be the nicest gift to be able to have everyone train in the same place."

Right now, during the season, Lipham said he schedules the runners at one time, the throwers at another and the jumpers even later, to accommodate everyone.

"To get ready for a meet in the past, I've had to rent a public school facility like Seminole High School or borrow the facilities at Northside Christian School (in St. Petersburg)," Lipham said.

There are about 60 kids in the track and cross country programs at Keswick.

The school began in an old farmhouse on the 27-acre site in 1953. It now has more than 700 students in the elementary and high school programs.

"There may be some building plans in the future," Mrs. Owen said. "But they won't include the two-story building we had envisioned. And we would have to go through the whole permit process again."

-- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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