The citys latest Special Use Permit cycle ended in late March and noticeably absent was an expected bid by the proposed Washington Latin School to open a facility in Old Town next September.
Stephen Milone, division chief for zoning and land use with Planning and Zoning Department, said he notified the schools officials of the looming March 24 SUP deadline after reading about the schools plans to open doors in Old Town on September 8.
Milone said he told the schools headmaster, Tom Soule, about the deadline and the permit itself, and found that Soule seemed to be in the dark about the need for new schools in the city to go through the SUP process.
The SUP application relies primarily upon the location and the proposed usage for land or space, Milone said.
Without the schools application, Milone was unable to say whether the organization would fall into any of the categories open to an Administrative SUP, which does not include the hearing process. Though some types of small schools are eligible for this, it is not clear how or if the Washington Latin School could be included.
Once Planning and Zoning receives an application, it is then considered by the Planning Commission and eventually the City Council, which has final approval. Any SUPs not heard or approved by the Council by June 13 would not be heard until Sept. 12, four days after the planned opening of the school.
Given that the site of the new school has yet to be determined, it is hard to fill out the application to begin the process.
As of March 31, Soule said that a location was still not finalized.
Were still working on that, Soule said. I just got a call from the board chair and theyre still working out the legalities of the real estate, so unfortunately we dont know yet.
On April 1, Planning and Zoning said it had not yet received any SUP application from the school to be included on the June docket, and Milone said that while there have been exceptions to the application deadlines in the past, they exist because the time required to carry out all of the necessary steps to stage a public hearing and win City Council approval usually takes several weeks.
Following a public meeting at Charles Beatley Library on March 17, Soule and school founder T.R. Ahlstrom said the necessary permits were being taken care of.
We have worked with our legal counsel to know what the regulations are to open an independent school, and I know that well have serious regulations as soon as we sign a contract for a space, Ahlstrom said. Theres very little regulation in the commonwealth of independent schools.
When asked about missing the March 24 SUP deadline, Soule said he was not the person in charge of the permit process and that the issues were still being sorted out within the schools team of legal and real estate agents. Soule directed those inquiries to Ahlstrom, but he did not return The Times further inquiries.