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Zoning board OKs new Decatur Heritage school

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

After about two months of waiting, administrators at Decatur Heritage Christian Academy received approval Tuesday to proceed with building a school in Southwest Decatur.

The 36-acre campus, to be located on Spring Avenue Southwest near the Vestavia Road extension, could allow the school to increase its enrollment from about 350 students to more than 500, said Headmaster Scott Mayo.

He said construction is expected to start next year and portions of the school could be open as early as fall 2009.

Plans for the school had been on hold since March as the Decatur Board of Zoning Adjustment considered granting a variance request to build the school on a parcel originally zoned for agriculture.

"It's been tabled a couple of times, but I think we've finally got our ducks in a row," Mayo said. "Unless we get some major curveball, it looks pretty good."

The board approved the variance request Tuesday after several residents from the nearby Vestavia Courts Subdivision pledged support for the project at the board's regular meeting.

Members of the Vestavia Courts Homeowners Association originally raised opposition to the project, expressing concerns about its possible impact on local traffic. That opposition was withdrawn.

"I think it will be a tremendous asset to Decatur," said Walter Hargett, a Vestavia Courts resident. "I'm for this 200 percent."

According to Mayo, with the zoning variance behind them, school officials will now begin capital fundraising for the building project.

He estimated they will need about $10 million to relocate all grades, K-12, from the school's Sandlin Road location to the new site.

"Probably what we'll end up doing is building it in phases, depending on how much we can raise," he said.

According to Mayo, the final site plan for the school will include athletic fields, about 30 classrooms and a library. It will also include a gymnasium, administrative offices and computer and science labs.

When completed, the indoor facilities will cover between 30,000 and 60,000 square feet.

"It's going to look like a million dollars when it's done," he said.

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