Highlands Classical Academy Looks for a New Home

After months of research and work with the Edgewater Planning and Zoning Commission, Highlands Classical Academy will no longer be seeking a home for its school in Edgewater. Last night, Edgewater City Council unanimously approved a Conditional Use Permit for Highlands Classical Academy (HCA) at 6400 W. 26th Avenue in Edgewater for up to 58 students. This condition would not allow HCA to grow to their desired enrollment and so they will be looking for a new home in the Denver metro area.

Highlands Classical Academy’s preschool currently operates on the church property at 6400 W. 26th Avenue and they were seeking to move their primary and secondary schools onto the same property. This meant a change of use and brought the proposal before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The main topic of disagreement between HCA and City Staff was regarding the traffic counts during pickup and drop-off times. HCA calculated a 2.5 students per car ratio while the City’s Traffic Engineer disagreed with this higher ratio as well as the school’s length of the car queue during drop-off and pickup. More cars during the morning drop-off and afternoon pickup could back up traffic along 26th Avenue as cars were trying to turn left into the property.

Neighbors living along Marshall Street and Lamar Street spoke in favor of Highlands Classical Academy and did not foresee an impact on traffic on their streets. A resident of 26th Avenue did raise concerns about increased traffic during pickup and drop-off times. HCA leaders ensured Planning and Zoning Commissioners that they would be a blessing to the neighborhood and listen to concerns of neighbors when they arose.

A view of the property from Google Maps:

On April 1, Edgewater Planning and Zoning approved the Conditional Use Permit with the condition that the plan be reviewed every three years. Edgewater City Council then discussed the Conditional Use Permit on April 2 and had the same concerns about traffic impact along 26th Avenue. City Council members proposed a condition which would enable Highlands Classical Academy to grow to 58 students without changing the parking lot and access to Lamar Street.

Then, on April 17, City Council continued their deliberation and discussion of the traffic concerns if and when HCA expanded their enrollment. Unanimously they approved the Conditional Use Permit with the requirement that HCA work with the property owners to construct an exit around the south of the property to Lamar when their enrollment reached 59 students. HCA could also apply for another Conditional Use Permit but there would be no guarantee that it would be approved without conditions.

Head of School Nate Ahern thanked the City Council and City Staff for their leadership and hard work but that they were disappointed in the decision. The property owners would not allow them to build an exit to Lamar and neighbors would not approve of the change. As a result Highlands Classical Academy would not be able to grow to their desired enrollment and meet the conditions of the City of Edgewater. Mr. Ahern explained their future plans, “We will keep our preschool in Edgewater for now but we are looking to unify our campuses as quickly as we can.”

 

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