Wake commissioners back Rolesville site for new high school

Staff writerJuly 6, 2010 

— Faced with school board chairman Ron Margiotta’s vow today that the system will never build a new high school on the previously purchased Forestville Road site, Wake County commissioners have just supported the Margiotta-led board’s plan to buy land for the controversial school in Rolesville.

Member Lindy Brown departed from the commissioner’s Democratic majority to vote against member Stan Norwalk effort to nix the Rolesville location for the school, needed to relieve overcrowding in Northeast Raleigh. The motion to buy the land passed on a 4-3 vote, with members Harold Webb and Betty Lou Ward joining Norwalk in opposition.

Before her vote, Brown said she had been troubled by residents’ concerns about traffic near the Forestville road site and wound up preferring the Rolesville location, offered for sale by developers St. Lawrence Homes.

“I do believe that the St. Lawrence site is the best one,” Brown said. “I will take you there and show you.”

The decision, part of ongoing debate about the 140,000-student system’s change of direction on topics including maintaining schools’ diversity, comes after more than two hours of public comment and discussion among the board.

“It reeks of politics,” Norwalk said as defeat for his position loomed, adding that the choice of Rolesville will do little to alleviate rampant overcrowding in Northeast Raleigh.

“It would have been great to go back to an overall school construction plan.”

Members have also heard information from schools administrators that the previous site had cost the system about $8.7 million for land and other preparation.

“Some people think that’s a ridiculous amount of money to leave on the table,” said commissioner Betty Lou Ward.

Countered Republican commissioner Paul Coble, “We never should have bought this land in the first place.”

The Forestville Road site can be sold, if declared surplus, to mitigate some of the money invested in it, Coble said.

“Wake County Public Schools will not build H6 on the Forestville Road site,” Margiotta told the board of commissioners during the comment period, which he joined without previous notice.

A vote for the Rolesville site could mean the system could open the high school by 2013, Margiotta said. “I think we need to recognize that we need high school seats in this part of the county,” he said.

A large majority of speakers during a comment period opposed the Forestville Road site.

The school board agreed last month to offer $4.3 million for the 143.26 acres of the Rolesville site, after voting in February not to use the Forestville Road plot.

Resident Terri Cook, opposing the Forestville Road site, said state numbers underestimate the cost of reconfiguring roads near the site. “The only guaranteed result of voting no is that you will delay the building of the H6 school,” Cook said.

Members of the school board majority, most elected as new members last fall, have argued that Forest Ridge, the planned name for the 2,200-student school, would have create a burdensome amount of traffic on an already crowded road.

“They were dumping 500 to 1,000 cars a day on our neighborhood,” area resident Sherman Biggerstaff, who spoke during a public-comment period, said about plans for Forest Ridge.

However, Zebulon resident Chester Raybon said the Rolesville location would be dangerous. He encouraged the board of commissioners to delay a decision on the Rolesville until the impact of a planned bypass around the town could be weighed.

Speaker Tim Raffensperger has lived across the road from the originally planned Forestville Road site for 26 years. “I’m a champion of growth,” Raffensperger said. “I’m part of the growth.

However, he said, “I’m worried about the property value. Nobody wants to live across the street from a big high school.”

The Wake schools administration has said changing sites could have delayed the school's opening until 2014.The board majority is pushing for a 2013 opening for the high school in Rolesville.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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