Some Warrick parents question planned development near school

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— Some parents voiced concerns about a proposed apartment complex on land adjacent to Castle North Middle School during Monday night’s Warrick County School Board meeting.

Dawn Bratton is the PTO treasurer at both Castle North Middle School and John. H. Castle Elementary, which sits on the opposite side of Indiana 261. She has one child at each school. She said she first heard of the proposed Castle Commons apartments on Friday, and just wants some answers.

“Your chief concern as a parent is the safety of your children,” Bratton said. “This area was zoned for commercial development, things like doctors’ offices. That sort of thing would be much more appropriate than multi-family buildings.”

Warrick County School Superintendent Brad Schneider assured the concerned parents that the school corporation would go to great lengths to ensure students’ safety. That could include building a fence separating the properties as well as other changes.

“Could there be some undesirables who would live at the apartments? I can’t say that there wouldn’t be,” Schneider said. “But that’s also true of people who could buy a house across the street.”

Schneider said while he’d prefer the apartment complex be built elsewhere, he does not expect it to have a major impact on the local schools or their programs. While the apartments would bring in additional children, he said, the school buildings currently have enough space to handle that influx.

“I do not feel in any way shape or form that what we do will be compromised if these units are built as proposed,” he said. “We are a public educational facility, and we educate every child. If kids live in an apartment or a $500,000 house, it makes no difference to us. Every kid is important and every kid can learn.”

The Castle North Middle School property was donated to the school corporation in the late 1950s by the Castle family. The building – which as seen several renovations – was the original Castle High School, then Castle Junior High and now Castle North Middle School.

While the school corporation does own property that allows a driveway to connect with Indiana 261, it does not and has never owned most of the land between the school and the highway. Schneider said there had been some consideration of buying that property, but the cost was too high.

“It is awfully difficult to go out and purchase property with that kind of price tag on it and justify it to the taxpayers when we really had no plans to use it in the near future,” Schneider said. “Would it be nice to have? Absolutely. But I don’t feel that would be a wise use of our resources. We are scrapping for every dollar and trying to make the most efficient use of those dollars.”

One concern Schneider and Bratton share is high traffic volume on Indiana 261 and Oak Grove Road. That intersection is near five different school buildings, including Castle High School. Indiana 261 is being widened, a project that will finish in 2014, but Bratton does not think that will offer enough relief.

The land in question has been divided up into eight parcels. On Jan. 14, the Warrick County Board of Zoning Appeals will hear a request to combine those parcels, which would allow the nine buildings to be more easily constructed.

The current C-1 zoning already allow for multi-family housing units.

Bratton said she and others will attend the zoning board meeting, but isn’t yet sure what action she’ll request.

“I just wish they would go back and pursue developing that land in some other way,” she said. “That would be the best thing.”
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