The second time turned out to be the charm for the National Heritage Academies’ attempt to have land on Scott Road annexed and zoned in order to build a charter school.
But even this second attempt at annexation and zoning was not without difficulties.
By 6-3 votes the City Council approved the annexation and zoning of 47.76 acres at 2126 and 2146 Scott Road. The property was zoned Conditional District Residential Single-Family-3 (CD-R-3) with the condition that uses be limited to a school and residential single-family dwellings.
The same group had withdrawn an annexation and zoning request at the Oct. 20 City Council meeting for the same site and the same project after the City Council balked at rezoning the property Residential Single-Family-5.
In October, Mayor Nancy Vaughan advised Bob Dunston of Charter Development Company LLC, an affiliate of National Heritage Academies Inc., that the City Council would like to see a “conditional” zoning request for the land. Dunston withdrew the annexation and zoning requests and started over at the Zoning Commission meeting in November with the conditional district request.
In October, councilmembers said they didn’t like charter schools and didn’t trust National Heritage Academies to build a charter school on the site rather than developing it for residential use.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Dunston also ran into trouble when questioned by Councilmember Yvonne Johnson who asked, “What percentage of your contractors are minority.”
Dunston tried to explain that the construction contract had not been put out for bid and he was not in charge of construction. He said, “I’m not allowed to speak for the facilities department.”
Dunston did say they would be under an extreme time constraint since the school was scheduled to open in August and said, “We need very viable contractors to meet that goal.”
Councilmembers Johnson, Sharon Hightower and Michelle Kennedy cast the no votes on the annexation and zoning. Johnson originally voted no on closing the public hearing, a routine procedural matter, but later changed that vote to a yes.
At the end of the meeting Johnson explained her vote saying, “I just want to make council aware that when people talk and you ask them a question about minority contractors and they respond they want somebody who can do the job that is a clear racist statement.”
At this point Hightower interjected, “Amen.”
Johnson continued, “I just want you to know that. If we continue to support that we continue to support racism, that’s all I have to say.”