A week after voting down a proposed transportation center, the Cary School District 26 board reversed course Wednesday and unanimously approved a modified version of the plan.
Board members who had voted against the plan last week, resulting in a 3-3 tie, voted for it Wednesday after flexibility regarding its location was written into the proposal. The board approved the measure over objections from a local youth baseball league that will be disrupted by the new transportation center and whose members packed the meeting in a show of opposition.
The proposed Maplewood Transportation Center in Cary is set to include 40 bus parking spaces, a fuel pump, car parking and a building to house transportation staff. The plan also includes the demolition of the long-closed Maplewood Elementary School, turning it into a vacant grassy lot.
Construction on the new transportation center is to begin in the early spring, Superintendent Brandon White said. Demolition of the school is set for the summer.
There are currently no plans on what to do with the lot once Maplewood is demolished, White said.
With one board member absent during a meeting Aug. 28, the plan failed in a 3-3 tie vote. White tried to vote in favor of the plan to break the tie, but the superintendent does not have voting rights and the plan was not approved.
The transportation site lies within the new downtown Cary tax-increment financing, or TIF, district, an area the Village Board has targeted for development. The Village Board also is considering building a new road in the area.
The road would run parallel to Route 14 and south of the train tracks, with a goal of increasing accessibility to downtown Cary. The proposed project, called the Maplewood Extension Project, would extend Industrial Drive and run from Cary-Algonquin Road to High Road.
The plan approved Wednesday night now includes that the plan can be adjusted to “fit another location, if needed,” White said. Board member Kathryn Potter said that officials essentially approved the layout of how the buses would be parked.
“We don’t know if we’re going to have it on Maplewood or not,” Potter said. “That’s an entirely different conversation.”
The District 26 board members met with the Village Board members to discuss the plans on Aug. 23, school board President Deanna Darling said. She said she is hopeful that the village will collaborate with the district in the future.
“It is extremely important that the district continues to move forward with our transportation center concept layout plans and adhering to an established timeline for completion,” Darling said at a meeting last week.
Potter, who voted against the plan last week but voted in favor of the plan on Wednesday, said she wanted a solid plan of when and where the buses and staff would be relocated during construction.
Finalized relocation plans will be ready by late winter or early spring, White said. The updated timeline added in staff to be relocated from March until October next year, White said.
The next step on the newly approved timeline is to abate the Maplewood building to make sure it can be demolished safely.
The transportation center plans also have faced opposition from Cary-Grove Youth Baseball and Softball, which will lose its concession stand, a baseball field and a storage shed under the proposal.
Dozens of residents attended Wednesday night’s meeting, resulting in standing room only. Many people attended with their children wearing Cary-Grove Youth Baseball and Softball jerseys.
Resident Eddie De La Rosa said the Cary-Grove Youth Baseball and Softball organization is what created a community for his family when they moved from Sacramento, California.
“We can always build a new building,” he said. “You can’t replace kids and community.”
District 26 transportation administration assistant Amy Langhamer said during the meeting that the 38-year-old trailer currently being used poses a safety hazard.
“It has had mold, mushrooms growing out of the woodwork, leaky windows and doors and at times water running down the walls,” she said.
Darling said that the community will need to get together to figure out the future of the youth baseball and softball organization.
“Nobody is telling baseball to leave,” she said.
Cary-Grove Youth Baseball and Softball Vice President Dave King said that the organization will have a spring season.
“It will be scattered. It won’t be what we want,” he said.
The organization will consider next steps that include talking with the village and Cary Park District for future baseball use. For now, they will use fields around Cary and in neighboring towns, King said.
“What we won’t have is a concession stand, a storage shed and a sense of community,” he said.