Zoning board gives greenlight to planned 3-story addition to Sauganash School despite some neighbors’ concerns; it will be its second annex since 2011
by BRIAN NADIG
The Zoning Board of Appeals at its Nov. 19 meeting cleared the way for the construction of a three-story addition to Sauganash School, 6040 N. Kilpatrick Ave., by approving zoning variations despite neighbors’ concerns that the building will be too close to the street.
Alderman Samantha Nugent (39th) told the board that the addition, which would include about a dozen classrooms and a new gym, will allow for a better learning environment.
“We have teachers teaching in the hallways. … This is a real big safety concern,” Nugent told the board. “We did scale back the original design to better complement the neighborhood.”
One of the variations calls for a reduction in the side setback along Kilpatrick Avenue from the required 24.25 feet to 12.52 feet. The other would allow for the maximum floor area ratio to increase from 0.50 (73,769 square feet) to 0.67 (97,979 square feet).
Several residents told that the board that they do not object to the school receiving an addition, which will be its second since 2011, but that it should be designed without the yard variation.
The argued that setting the addition 12.52 feet back from the street instead of the normally required 24.25 feet would create a sight-line obstruction for motorists as they drive through the Hiawatha-Kilpatrick intersection. Some motorists use Hiawatha as a shortcut between Cicero Avenue and Peterson Avenue.
Resident James Murphy III called for a postponement in the board’s vote so that alternatives could be considered. Plans call for the addition to be located on the north end of the campus, where the 1954 gym will be demolished.
“Everyone agrees there is a need (for the addition, but) I still don’t know why it can’t be extended 12 feet in the other direction,” Murphy said. “If there was more input from the neighbors from the beginning, we wouldn’t be in this position.”
Residents also expressed concern that the addition would be “1 ½ stories” taller than the existing two-story school and that it would be replacing a significant amount of natural grass on the campus, worsening the flooding on area streets.
Representatives for the Public Buildings Commission responded that they looked at other locations for the addition that that it would have required a four-story building or the removal of the artificial sports field on the campus.
Project officials also said that the construction will include a stormwater retention system and that adding classroom floors above the existing school structures would not be feasible due to issues with the foundation.
In addition, a project traffic engineer testified that the planned annex should not adversely impact traffic safety because the Hiawatha-Kilpatrick intersection is a four-way stop requiring drivers to look “both ways” before proceeding. He added that there also would be an adequate “sight triangle” for motorists to view the intersection even with the side-yard reduction along Kilpatrick.
Earlier plans called for the addition to be set back 3 feet 9 inches along Kilpatrick, but it was later changed to 12 feet 6 inches, said commission deputy director of planning Kerl LaJeune.
Sauganash principal Christine Munns said that the addition will allow the school to have two simultaneous indoor gym classes and a universal pre-k program for the community. It also will allow for three classrooms per grade and eliminate the need for some instructors to teach “on a cart” instead of having their own classroom.
“I truly believe this will be an outstanding building,” Munns said. “I feel this is going to be my legacy … for the future as well as the current students.”
The school is experiencing an approximately six-percent growth in enrollment each year, Munns said.
Sauganash School Local School Council Secretary Christopher Schumer said that the project is being driven by both “need and hardship,” adding that the school was operating at 126 percent capacity with 660 students in 2019.
The original section of the existing two-story school was built in 1929.