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Imagine School gets closer to goal of permanent building in Pasco County

NEW PORT RICHEY — A Land O'Lakes charter school got one step closer Thursday to opening a permanent building, but officials aren't sure if the conditions top county officials attached will make the project doable.

Imagine School's goal is to open a location this fall at Morgan Road and U.S. 41. This was the school's second try at getting county permission to proceed with the project.

The county Development Review Committee, composed of the top administrators and a representative of the Pasco County School District, grilled the charter school's land use attorney and asked questions for at least an hour before giving its okay.

Sticking points included some of the same ones raised in September when the group first came before the committee. Among those was a three-way agreement among the school, the county and CSX Railroad regarding a railroad crossing on Morgan Road. County officials said the school first had to work out an agreement with CSX to get a crossing arm, but the school's attorney, Barbara Wilhite, said securing an agreement might take too long and prevent the school from getting a site permit before fall. An arm does not have to be in place before school starts, as the school is allowed to use law enforcement officers to direct traffic.

County officials also required that the school put up a signal at U.S. 41 and Morgan, but Wilhite said the Department of Transportation has said one isn't warranted and wouldn't put one up. A DOT staffer said that would change after the school opens, but the county was requiring one before a site permit could be issued. County officials later agreed to let the school work with the DOT on that matter.

At times, it seemed like the project was about to go down in flames like last year, when officials walked out of the meeting and withdrew their request.

"We laid out the rules and very little has been done in the last year," County Administrator John Gallagher told Wilhite.

In the end, officials ended up approving the application but added a laundry list of conditions. Imagine School is slated to have 728 students in grades K-8 next year. Officials want to occupy a 38,450 square foot, one-story building.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

Imagine School gets closer to goal of permanent building in Pasco County 03/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 26, 2009 8:59pm]

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