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CONSTRUCTION PLANS FOR HIGH SCHOOL GET NOD

After several reversals, the plans seem to have made a passing grade.

Top planners approved construction plans Thursday for a controversial high school site in the Hudson area.

High School EEE is on the north side of State Road 52, between Chicago and Canton avenues and is set to open in fall 2010.

The county's Development Review Committee approved the site plans in February 2007 amid intense opposition from neighbors who worried about noise and traffic.

The final approval came after reversal upon reversal by county planning staff, who first found the $8-million site consistent with Pasco's growth blueprint, then found it inconsistent, and finally found it consistent. The sticking point was $4.2-million worth of road work at the State Road 52 and Chicago Avenue site.

The initial approval pulled the county back from the brink of an unprecedented situation: a proposed school location thrown out by county planners.

As part of its decision last year, the Development Review Committee told the district to settle the issue of road improvements and conduct a ground-penetrating radar study to find a possible unmarked cemetery in the area.

On Thursday, planners agreed the conditions had been addressed, including an issue of who would pay for road improvements, which had been an ongoing controversy. County and school officials each said it was the other's responsibility. However, a $10-million allocation by the state Legislature to pay the costs made that point moot.

County Administrator John Gallagher was unwilling to make assumptions.

"I don't have the check yet from the state of Florida," he said.

Staff added a condition that if the money wasn't available, the two governments would have to negotiate.

A handful of residents spoke in opposition Thursday. They worried about well contamination and whether the district would report any artifacts or human remains that might be found on the site.

Assistant schools superintendent Ray Gadd said the school would be on county water and sewer. He also offered to test the wells before school construction began. As for artifacts or the presence of a cemetery, he said there was no way construction crews would proceed if they ran across bones.

The number of opponents Thursday was far less than last year, when residents packed the room to speak against the high school's location.

They warned of traffic tie-ups, drug problems, speeding, noise and crime. They accused the School Board of refusing to take their concerns seriously, a charge Gadd denied.

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