LAKE PLACID - For a few years the School Board of Highlands County has been trying to find a suitable property to relocate its Lake Placid bus compound and its fuel tanks safely away from its current spot among three schools.
With the compound/maintenance facility handling dozens of school buses, the challenge was finding a property that wasn't too close to any residential or commercial properties, yet not too far out of town, which would drive up the buses' fuel costs.
School Board Attorney John McClure informed the county commission Tuesday about the district's plans to relocate the bus compound and fueling depot, which is currently located on South Tangerine Drive, behind Lake Placid High School.
The school district has a bus barn that is built on property along with an elementary, middle and high school, he said.
"Which sounds like a great idea, but it is not a very good idea at all as it turns out because we are co-mingling different ages of students, but more importantly the buses really don't belong on the campuses with the kids and we also have an issue with gas storage in these areas," McClure said.
The district has been looking for a bus barn off campus that would also be centrally located for the district's transportation department, he noted. An "excellent" property has been located right behind the county's maintenance barn.
The district seeks a rezoning of the property for a maintenance barn, which could also be capable of servicing county vehicles providing a common gas facility that the district and county could use and bill out together, McClure said.
"The real issue here is getting the buses off the campus; the safety of the kids and getting the gas storage off the campus," he stressed.
The purchase of the property is contingent on a zoning change and approval of a small scale comprehensive land use amendment, he said.
The approximately five acres of property, at 1955 County Road 621 East, Lake Placid, is south of County Road 621 and 3.13 miles east of U.S. 27. The property's existing use is citrus and it is surrounded by citrus properties except for the county maintenance site to the north.
The county commission approved a zoning change and land use change for the property from agricultural district to public and quasi-public lands/planned development district.
County planner Joedie Thayer said Thursday that the district has the go-ahead in respect for land use and zoning.
The district is awaiting approval on an easement to be able to gain access to the property, she said, but there should be no problem because the easement is on county property.
According to the district's zoning and land use change applications, the proposed date for the construction/development of the new bus compound is 2016.