The Westchester Community Council has postponed action on a controversial proposal to build a school in a residential neighborhood.
“This is one of the most difficult applications I’ve ever heard,” said Westchester community councilman Julio Caceres at the March 19 hearing. “We’re trying to stick a round peg in a square hole.”
Council members adjourned the meeting once the discussion went over the allotted time, automatically deferring the school proposal for two months.
“I’m trying to help out both parties,” said Richard M. Gomez, the council member who hoped that his motion to end the meeting would mean more time for the two sides to discuss a compromise.
Plans for the 200-student school and daycare were met with opposition from a group of neighbors of the 2.3-acre site at Southwest 147th Avenue and 15th Street. Several residents said the school would create traffic, noise and safety issues. Set to be called “New Horizons,” the school would have children from infancy to age 8, 16 teacher, 11 classrooms and 34 parking spaces.
“Our issue is not with the school itself,” said Ernesto Frye, a neighbor leading the West Dade Homeowners Coalition. “It’s the location.”
Presentations from representatives on both sides lasted almost three hours, with heated debate between Gomez and Melissa Tapanes Llahues, the landowner’s attorney.
Tapanes Llahues urged council members to approve the plans, saying schools within residential areas are nothing new and the proposal meets the all of the building standards imposed by Miami-Dade County.
“Schools in residential areas are the rule, not the exception,” she said.
But the opposition’s lawyer said the allowing the construction doesn’t rule out the potential for the school to grow.
“In five years, they will have more students,” said attorney W. Tucker Gibbs. “No school will not expand.”