BURTON — What will become of the Berkshire school buildings once the district opens its new $41.57 million all-grade campus next year?
That was the question discussed by the Village Planning Commission on Oct. 21 when findings from Aventus Consulting+Management to the Berkshire Community Planning Association were reviewed.
Storefronts and residential housing were among the suggestions along with maintaining playgrounds for community use.
The four school properties up for discussion include Berkshire Elementary School and Berkshire High School in Burton Village, the athletic field just north of the village in Burton Township and the Ledgemont Elementary School in Thompson Township.
“The report came from an outside group,” said village Solicitor Todd C. Hicks “When reading it back it is super impressive.”
The Berkshire association was formed in 2000 as a nonprofit organization and started meeting to discuss the best uses for the properties with representatives from the Berkshire Local School District as well as Burton Village and Burton, Claridon, Montville, Thompson and Troy townships.
The association initiated a study with the management firm. Recommendations contained in the Sept. 15 report were drawn from extensive discussions from January through July of this year with members of the association, residents and officials representing the communities that feed into the school district.
Aventus conducted in-person and virtual interviews to gather input related to public sentiment concerning future use of the properties.
Community discussions have raised the possibility of at least one potential user of the 12-acre Berkshire High School property in its “as-is” condition, according to Aventus. “The school district should pursue this opportunity and rezone the property, as needed. Unlike the other properties, the Berkshire High School property’s location and visibility increases its importance to the Village,” the report states.
The front of the property could be used as storefronts with the land to the west having a potential for housing. “The existence of both commercial and residential uses adjacent to the property, its location at the ‘gateway’ to the village’s commercial district and its proximity to the village center opens the door to a wider-variety of potential uses,” the study concluded.
For Burton Elementary School, community discussion raised the possibility of at least one potential user of the property in its “as-is” condition such as a church. The Aventus report stated: “The school district should pursue this opportunity, and if it appears to be a viable option, have the village rezone the property, as needed.”
Aventus stated that the playground at Burton Elementary is an important community asset that should be preserved. “The community’s accessibility to the playground via walking paths and sidewalks between Carlton Street and Route 87, is equally important. A portion of the sidewalk is owned by a private party, which could pose a potential issue with accessibility to the playground,” the report states.
“Based on its size, proximity to the Village Center and the size of the developable area, the sale of the athletic fields property will receive the most attention from would-be bidders,” according to the report.
The 60-acre practice field property, which has been used for years for school sports located on North Cheshire and Route 168 in Burton Township, could also be utilized for a district athletic complex if no other property becomes available, according to the study.