A plan to construct Verona’s first Catholic school has citizens concerned about an increase in traffic.
St. Ambrose Academy, which is planning to relocated from Madison, submitted plans to the city July 2 for a 13,000 square foot school serving grades 6-12 at 301 N. Main St. At a neighborhood meeting organized by the school July 20, those attending discussed concerns such as flooding and after school activities.
Mainly, people opposed to the project seemed worried about a future extension of Silent Street to Main Street. That street begins at the library and ends at the northeast corner of the development area, and the current plan does not extend it.
A concept plan is expected to be presented at the next Plan Commission meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, for discussion and feedback. The plan would get feedback from the Common Council, as well, before returning to the commission for a public hearing in the future.
A draft traffic study has been produced for the development, but it is not expected to be presented at the meeting, city administrator Adam Sayre told the Press.
The initial plan includes a 13,000 square foot education building with capacity for 150 students and a 75 stall parking lot. The proposal suggests completion of the first phase as soon as September 2021.
A future phase of the plan would add a 12,000 square foot building to accommodate 100 more students, a 10,000 square foot gym, athletic fields for soccer, football practice and track and a cafeteria/multipurpose space.
Nearby residents have expressed avid opposition to extending Silent Street to Main Street on the social media platform NextDoor. There were more than 200 comments on three separate threads, and about half of the roughly 30 people who participated expressed opposition to the school at its proposed location, with concerns mostly about traffic and flooding.
Historically, the extension of Silent Street has been opposed by the adjoining neighborhood. In 2014, a proposed extension was removed from a draft of the Downtown Verona Mobility Development Plan, and in 2006, a plan to extend Silent Street was removed from the city’s capital budget just prior to the vote.
Any plans moving forward for the extension and the development would have to be approved by council.
Petitions circulated in the neighborhood and the city has received at least 20 individual oppositions to the development as of Monday, July 27 and four letters opposing the development.
The plan shows a single driveway entrance off of Main Street, just north of the one-way road into the former high school, which is being converted into four elementary and middle schools this fall.
Commenters on NextDoor said the nearby area already has flooding problems and noted that water came close to cresting near Silent Street last year.
The school opened in Madison in 2003 and has eight full-time and nine part-time staff and is now hoping to relocate to Verona.
Its 2020-2021 student body has 12 students that reside in the Verona Area School District and seven students that have Verona addresses but are not part of VASD, according to an email from the academy.
Tuition for students in grades 6-8 was $7,995 in 2020-2021, and for grades 9-12 it was $8,575. Nearly 50% of the students receive financial aid, according to the application.