JOLIET – Laraway School District representatives on Thursday presented plans for a new school to two city panels that gave their approval both to construction of the new building and to an annexation agreement to sell the old one.
The new school on Rowell Avenue will include a baseball field and softball field. A running track and soccer field also are planned, although they might not be built immediately. Finally, neighbors of the nearby Sugar Creek subdivision expressed concerns about proper drainage – concerns which resulted in the addition of two detention ponds to the construction plans.
Laraway Superintendent Joe Salmieri told the Zoning Board of Appeals that the Laraway Road location “has really become a safety issue for our students, staff and visitors.”
The school lies on a major truck route for trucks using CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet. District officials expect to begin construction on the new school in April or May and open in fall 2018.
The zoning board approved a special-use permit needed to build the school at 1715 Rowell Avenue.
The Plan Commission approved an annexation agreement Thursday that would bring the 40 acres where the existing school stands into the city of Joliet. Developers typically want land in a municipality to have access to city water and sewers.
Both the special use permit and annexation agreement will be presented to the city council for final approval. Laraway already has begun an auction to seek a buyer for the school property by an April 19 bid deadline.
“If not, we’re back to the drawing board and looking how to attract a buyer to that building,” Salmieri told the Plan Commission.
Whether or not a buyer emerges, the plan to build the new school will continue, Salmieri said. Laraway will continue to use the old school until it moves into the new one.
Plan Commissioner Fredrick Moore asked what plans there were to secure the old school when students move to the new one.
“Until the property is sold, we’ll still be using the bus barn and the athletic facilities,” Salmieri said.
Elizabeth Sodic from the Sugar Creek subdivision requested that the neighborhood be kept informed about the project because of concerns about drainage.
“We’re downhill, and we’re on a creek,” Sodic told the zoning board. “Water goes down that way, and so does silt.”
The school district has had a public meeting with Sugar Creek residents to discuss drainage plans.
“We have all intentions of being good neighbors and making sure we keep the community involved,” he said.