Exeter may close ‘C' St. for school expansion project

By Reggie Ellis

The Exeter City Council will consider closing C Street to expand Lincoln Elementary School following its 4-0 vote of approval to conduct a study of the plan at its Oct. 10 meeting.

The council's decision does not begin the process of closing the street but studies how the closure would affect traffic flows if it were closed.

Superintendent Renee Whitson, who was joined by all five Exeter Union School District Trustees at the meeting, requested that the City Council begin the process of abandoning the street as a public roadway.

Trustee Mickey Hirni said Lincoln Elementary is currently 6.5 acres and that by closing the street and acquiring property, the district could expand the campus by an additional 2.7 acres.

&#8220It might not seem like much now, but 50 years from now it will mean a whole lot,” Hirni told the council.

If the council approves the street's closure, EUSD plans to purchase homes along the street. In an interview earlier this year, Whitson said the district's first option for acquiring the six homes on the street would be to wait until they were up for sale or negotiate with the homeowner. As a last resort, the district could use Eminent domain, the right of public agencies to force the sale or property for the greater public good.

Lincoln Elementary School is landlocked, surrounded by busy streets and City Park to the west. Adding classrooms within the school's current boundary would diminish playground and ball field areas. Lincoln school is landlocked surrounded C Street to the east, D Street to the west, Chestnut Street to the north and Clarence Street to the south. Also, if preschool initiative passes, a public preschool facility in Exeter would logically be built on campus at the kindergarten through second-grade school.

The option of closing C Street was one of two offered by city administration instead of closing Clarence Street. City Manager John Kunkel said the city suggested making the south end of C Street a cul-de-sac, similar to A Street near the Shell station, which would immediately provide additional land the district could use for construction. This would allow the district more time to wait for homes on C Street to come up for sale. Kunkel said the idea was good for both the school district and city because the street creates an awkward triangular intersection at Highway 65 (Kaweah Avenue).

&#8220Our first alternative didn't work,” Whitson said. &#8220We think this is the best alternative.”

EUSD abandoned the idea of expanding the K-2 school across Clarence Street after the City Council denied their request to close the street last fall. The plan would have required the district buying a drive-thru coffee business that had recently opened across the street, next to a vacant lot the district purchased three and a half years ago.

Most of the homes on C Street are occupied by renters, but one of the two homeowners, Diana Lucas, said she was not happy to hear about the plan. Lucas bought her 1913 Bungalow three years ago as her retirement home. A third grade teacher in Orange County, Lucas has been living in the home on weekends until retirement when she could leave the crowded metropolis for Exeter's small town charm.

&#8220I love pre-1920 homes but the only Bungalows in Orange County are in poor or gang-infested neighborhoods,” Lucas said in a May interview. &#8220This is the home of my dreams and I don't want to see it knocked down. I hope that never happens.”

City Planner Greg Collins said the city needs to conduct a study to determine where sewer and water lines cross ‘C' and how that would affect any plans to build over the street in the future. No decision will be made by the council until after the study has been completed. No timetable was set by the council for the completion of the study.

Start typing and press Enter to search