Geneva Academy Cleared to Move to New Campus

Geneva Classical Academy, a small K-12 Christian school, was cleared today to move to the former campus of Lakeside Baptist Church at 1735 New Jersey Road.

The school, currently located at 4204 Lakeland Highlands Road, plans to start next school year at its new campus.

When the City Commission approved a conditional-use permit for the school’s move today, the biggest issue was traffic flow on New Jersey Road.

“New Jersey is already jammed up” in the mornings and afternoons, Commissioner Justin Troller said.

A traffic study provided by the school indicated the only needed improvement would be adding a turn lane on New Jersey Road to accommodate traffic making left turns onto the campus, Lakeland Planning Director Teresa Maio said. Once on the campus, there is plenty of asphalt on the back side of the former sanctuary to allow traffic to queue up onsite.

Chuck Barmby, the city’s transportation and development planner, said the school will pay to build a 195-foot-long turn lane near the northern entrance to the campus.

The academy will be required to provide trained officers to direct traffic rather than using school personnel during student drop-off and pick-up periods, Maio said.

Currently the student pick-up and drop-off periods last only 10 minutes, Barmby had told commissioners during an agenda study meeting on Friday.

Barmby had assured commissioners on Friday that New Jersey Road travelers will not experience the logjams that occur on Edgewood Drive South near the much-larger South McKeel Academy campus during student drop-off and pick-up periods.

Geneva Classical Academy, which has approximately 160 students, expects to eventually grow to 250 students at the new location.

Before the student population reaches that level, the school will need to conduct another traffic analysis and make adjustments, Maio said.

No one from the public spoke on the issue before commissioners unanimously approved the request. A conditional-use permit is required for all schools that are located in residential areas.

The permit also includes numerous conditions concerning noise and visual buffering of the school’s athletic and play areas from the surrounding neighborhood.

Geneva Classical Academy paid $1.9 million last summer for the property, which includes the  71,967 square-foot, 53-year-old sanctuary building, according to county property records.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended the commissioners approve the conditional use permit.

Today’s meeting went smoothly because the school and city planners have worked out the issues during the last few months, a school official said after the approval was granted.

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