OLEAN – Administrators in the Olean School District front office have formally asked city officials for approval of additional parking at Olean High School in hopes of addressing a problem that has existed for years.
District and city officials met Tuesday night to talk about the plan and hear public comment.
The plan would add 23 parking spots to the school property, to the tune of $430,000, according to Superintendent Colleen Taggerty. Most of the spots would be along the school’s front lawn on West Sullivan Street, where a curb cut and redesign would have to take between 30 and 35 feet, allowing for diagonal parking for 18 vehicles. Another three visitor spots and two handicapped spots would be created to the east of the front lawn, along the Third Street side of the property.
Those spaces would give access to a handicap-accessible ramp that would be part of the project, Taggerty said.
The two proposed additions to the front of the property have not been welcomed by some residents along the route, according to Mayor William Aiello.
“We heard five or six people that were not in favor of the project and one that was in agreement,” he said. “Some of the largest concerns are how the project would take away from the historic view of the building.”
The high school, done in an Art Deco motif, has been placed on the National Historic Register.
According to Aiello, the area historic society has “signed off” on the parking plan and has no issues with how it would change the view of the building.
In fact, Taggerty said the ramp would be oriented and designed so that it would not be noticeable when the building is viewed from the front.
Other concerns dealt with cutting into the lawn of the school, changing the historic landscape.
The new plan would carve out a section of city right of way, but nothing else would change. Aiello said that is not really a concern.
Parking has been an issue at the school, Taggerty said. The issue has been partially cleared up with rental of the lot that used to be the home of St. Joseph Maronite Church. The church was destroyed by a fire in August 2011 and has since relocated to another part of the city. One option presented to the officials Tuesday was purchasing the lot and the former Montessori school building that now sits vacant.
Aiello said conversations with Taggerty have disclosed that it could take as long as three years to gain approval from the state Education Department to purchase a lot in that condition.
No action was taken. Aiello said he and members of the Common Council would like to be able to talk to more people and get a sense of how neighboring residents feel about the plan.
Construction of the handicapped-accessible ramp is a vital part of the project, Taggerty said.
“We don’t want to ruin the historic view,” she said. “I think that shows our commitment to what is important to the residents of the city.”