Zoning approved for Lafayette auxiliary gym

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Plans for the proposed auxiliary gym at LaFayette High School dated Sept. 20, 2016. (Courtesy WJCC Schools)
Plans for the proposed auxiliary gym at LaFayette High School dated Sept. 20, 2016. (Courtesy WJCC Schools)

The James City County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a special use permit required to bring the proposed auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School into conformance with county zoning ordinances.

Supervisor Kevin Onizuk said the measure was another step toward creating a facility the Lafayette community has spent more than a decade advocating for. 

“We’ve had a lot of discussion,” said Onizuk. “It’s definitely been a significant need.”

The school was rezoned in 2007 to require special use permits on its land, according to planning commission documents. The proposal to construct an auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School was technically non-conforming with James City County zoning ordinances until the Supervisors approved the special use permit Tuesday night.

“We are happy the board approved the special use permit,” said Williamsburg-James City County Schools’ Senior Director for Operations Marcellus Snipes. “And I’m sure the Lafayette community is happy and excited to keep moving forward with this project as well.”

Lead architect for the project, Mike Ross of Virginia Beach’s Hargrove, Brockwell & Associates, said after the WJCC School Board approves a value engineering review, he hopes submit the project for bid by March or April. He added he hopes to see construction start as soon as students leave for summer vacation.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved funding for an auxiliary gym for Lafayette High School on Oct. 12. According to a 10-year capital improvement plan passed unanimously by the WJCC School Board Tuesday night, the cost of the new gym is estimated at $1,380,605. 

“It was a need that we were able to fulfill which will be a great asset,” Supervisor Michael Hipple said of the proposed project. “I think it fills a niche for that school.”

The WJCC School Board received updated design plans for the gymnasium at their monthly work session Tuesday night. A lead engineer from Hargrove, Brockwell & Associates provided visual plans for the gym and answered board member’s questions about the design, which included inquiries about the number of basketball hoops, lighting and energy efficient qualities of the new facility. 

Lafayette students had previously been using the gymnasium at James Blair Middle School, but the middle school and its gym were demolished in the summer.

Until recently, Lafayette students also used a public gym at the Warhill Sports Complex — or WISC — traveling there via an ungraded path through the woods and a ravine. The school district shut down the trail in October, citing safety concerns.

“Basically, it’s a safety thing,” Hipple said. “It’s a terrible, deep ravine.”

Lafayette’s Booster Club had requested the district construct a formal walkway to WISC as part of its 10-year capital improvement plan, but the estimated $1,177,184 project was eliminated from the CIP following a unanimous school board vote Tuesday.

WJCC Acting Superintendent Olwen Herron recommended the walkway’s removal from the CIP “due to safety concerns for students.”

The capital improvement plan must be approved by the James City County Board of Supervisors and the Williamsburg City Council before it goes into effect.

Sarah Fearing contributed reporting.