Fruitland zoning board rejects charter’s expansion plan

Every seat was full at the Fruitland Planning and Zoning meeting Tuesday evening. The commission denied Treasure Valley Classical Academy’s permit request for expanding to a new location.

Fruitland’s zoning commission denied a permit for Treasure Valley Classical Academy’s planned $8 million expansion plans.

“They did nothing to help us anywhere,” said Stephen Lambert, executive director of American Classical Schools of Idaho and founding principal of Fruitland’s Treasure Valley Classical Academy (TVCA).

Commissioners cited safety and traffic concerns as reasons for stopping the construction of a new campus near commercial businesses. Every seat was taken at the Tuesday evening meeting and another 25 people waited outside to hear their final decision.

Commission chairman Barry Carlman, said: “It’s going to be a congestion nightmare.” The vote to deny the permit was unanimous.

Lambert challenged that statement. “We have an Idaho Transportation Department approved traffic study that improves general traffic conditions with our planned improvements.”

The denial affects educational decisions, morale and enrollment. The charter is designed as a K-12 institution. Its current building is designated for grades K-6. The new campus would have served grades 7-12. Parents and supporters were visibly upset and emotional after the meeting.

Lisa Woods’ daughter is in 10th grade and will need to make a decision about her final two years of high school. “We really like the opportunities we’ve had at TVCA,” she said.

Parent Tamara Davis said, “It’s good to have choice. And it’s fantastic to have a school like this in rural Idaho.”

Commissioner Sharon Blacketter is not convinced the location is viable because of traffic issues and the potential impact on nearby businesses. Fellow commissioner Terry Heitz agreed: “It’s not harmonious with this whole area.”

The planning and zoning commission consists of nine members appointed by the mayor. Fruitland mayor Brian Howell rejected EdNews’ recent request for an interview because it’s a “pending matter.”

The tussle over the conditional use permit emerged six months ago. With the blessing of city officials, the school was set to build a new middle and high school — called the TVCA Upper Campus — in an area zoned commercial, Lambert said. Approximately 8.62 acres are under contract to purchase at the corner of North Arizona Avenue and Northwest 13th Street, southeast of St. Luke’s Clinic. The campus would include three academic buildings, a gym and cafeteria, a bus parking cul-de-sac, a 150-vehicle parking lot and a soccer field. 

But the commission denied the permit in June. The city council later supported the school’s appeal of the commission’s decision, which led to additional meetings, testimony, reports and studies. 

The charter selected this location after considering four locations with city planning officials, who, according to Lambert, agreed it would be the best choice.

“We gave them a range and they generally agreed,” Lambert said.

Lambert confirmed that TVCA is now considering constructing the Upper Campus outside the city limits but there have been no final decisions.

“I’m never gonna give up. This is not over,” he said.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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