CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County School District has announced plans for the recently vacated 17-acre Coachman Fundamental Middle School property.
Nearby residents will be relieved to know it will not be a large-scale bus depot as some feared.
Andrea Zahn, director of communications for Pinellas County Schools, said this week the campus at 2235 NE Coachman Road will be "a multi-use facility to house district staff members from various departments and programs — transportation dispatch, hospital-homebound (services), tele-school and Special Olympics and others. The large auditorium would be retained as a north country district training site.''
She said there will be about 25 buses parked on the property overnight, but there will be no fueling, repairs or servicing of the vehicles.
"Those kinds of services will be done at the bus compound in Clearwater,'' Zahn wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "The district has returned to assigning students closer to their homes (zoned schools). As we continue to reduce the number of bus routes, the need to park buses eventually will be reduced.''
Residents in the Forest Glen neighborhood just north of the property said a rumor had been circulating that as many as 300 buses would be parked, maintained and fueled on the site.
The increase in traffic concerned Missy Russell.
She said backups on NE Coachman Road are bad enough when the Phillies train at Carpenter Field.
"If they just park (25) buses for the night, I don't have an issue with that,'' she said.
Harry Malloy, who lives down the street from Russell, had been worried about the gopher turtles, owls, foxes and squirrels that call the wooded property home.
"This site also borders the historic McMullen Cemetery, and I am sure the McMullen family would be opposed to any development of this property if they knew there was a plan to park potentially 300 buses next to their property,'' he wrote in an e-mail to the Times.
When told of the plans for the campus, he said "we're absolutely relieved.''
"We moved here basically because of the privacy of the area,'' he said.
Coachman Fundamental is merging with Kennedy Middle School 2 miles away.
A few years ago, an effort to build a large school bus maintenance facility northeast of McMullen-Booth Road and State Road 580 sparked outrage in Safety Harbor. The school district eventually abandoned the proposal.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153.