MATTHEWS – The Matthews Board of Commissioners is considering the possibility of using a portion of 28 acres previously designated for a park at McKee and Pleasant Plains roads for a new school.
Commissioners discussed plans for the property during their planning conference Feb. 22 and 23 at town hall.
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resource Department Director Corey King presented three design proposals for the potential new park, ranging in price from $3.1 million to $3.8 million.
But several commissioners inquired about setting aside part or all of the area for future school construction.
“I’ll be honest, I would like to see a concept D for a set area where there is a small school on this property for relief for elementary school children,” Commissioner Chris Melton said.
Commissioner John Urban said the land could be used for a charter school if Matthews decides to go that route.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law last year that allows Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius to operate their own charter schools. The four communities have long had concerns with CMS regarding student placement, overcrowding and the construction of new schools in their communities.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education responded by approving the Municipal Concerns Act, which instructs Superintendent Clayton Wilcox to prioritize future capital funding to Charlotte, Davidson and Pineville.
“I think we have to have a conversation about land for potential schools, whether it is charter or otherwise,” Urban said. “It is not something to dismiss readily in light of where we are at. If we do move forward toward diversity of educational choices, here is an opportunity. We do have the land at this point in time.”
Commissioner Jeff Miller also said the property should be explored as a site for a possible school.
If the property is used for a park, the three concepts presented to the board could include walking trails, signature playground equipment, fitness clusters, pickleball and badminton courts, a dog park, basketball courts, picnic shelters and an open play area among other options.
Commissioner Barbara Dement praised King for presenting ideas that had recreational opportunities for all age groups. Dement said she would like to see a volleyball court added to the park if it is built.
“You have things for most in here,” Dement said. “You truly hit every demographic in our town. I love that idea.”
Commissioner John Higdon suggested moving the parking lot to an area underneath the power lines. Currently, that area is designated for walking trails that would meander under the power poles in that section. If the park was built, the town would handle the maintenance of the land, which is owned by Duke Energy, under the electric power towers.
“I think it should be considered that parking be underneath the power lines and use that prime space (where parking is now proposed) for other amenities,” Higdon said.
Commissioner Kress Query asked King to bring to the board cost estimates of operating and maintaining the park if it is built.
“I’m seeing a big park and I am thinking three or four people continually to do upkeep,” Query said.