Three cars parked in the lot above the Ardleigh Street ramp at Jenks Academy of Arts and Sciences. Neighbors argue the parking is a violation of use. (Photo by Brendan Sample)

by Brendan Sample

Months after opening earlier this year, the newly constructed ramp at the back of Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences continues to be a source of debate, this time over alleged parking and traffic issues.

Several residents of Ardleigh Street have argued that the ramp has led to increased congestion on their street due to a lack of space for delivery trucks at the top of the ramp. The school administration, however, led by principal Mary Lynskey, argues that the neighbors’ claims have been overexaggerated and reflect an unfair judgment of the school.

The neighbors formally presented their arguments against Jenks at the latest meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, held on Thursday, Oct. 5. They claimed to have observed anywhere from three to five cars parked at the top of the ramp on any given day, with more coming up temporarily to drop off and pick up students. This increased presence of cars supposedly led to trucks not being able to make deliveries using the ramp, which was its intended purpose, and thus having to park on Ardleigh, causing backups.

All of their perceived problems with the ramp have caused the neighbors to continue growing skeptical about it, with some at the LUPZ meeting calling the ramp’s function of being used for deliveries “bogus.” Regardless of what it could have been constructed for, the neighbors continued to express their view that the ramp should never have been constructed in the first place.

In response to these claims, Lynskey did confirm that she had allowed for two faculty members to park on the ramp for medical reasons, as one teacher is pregnant in her third trimester and another is dealing with a painful foot inflammation called plantar fasciitis. While she did also acknowledge that some cars may also be temporarily parked in the space at any point it the day, she also felt that cars on the ramp space would not inherently impede a delivery truck’s progress.

“If anyone actually comes up to the top of the ramp, they’d see there’s plenty of room for deliveries to be made,” Lynskey said. “The food trucks do have to drive in through the service entrance on the street level … and if there’s someone parked around the bottom of the ramp, it’s because they don’t want to drive up as opposed to not being able.”

Although the ramp and space at the top is not specifically zoned for parking, Lynskey still sees the potential of using the area for expanded parking. Although the ramp space appears to be cut off from the rest of the outdoor space by a fence, there is also a gate on the fence that can be opened and allow for cars to pull through. While the school would have to wait for children to stop using the park amenities, such as a basketball court right next to the ramp spot, it could conceivably provide ample space if Jenks gets the right approval.

According to the LUPZ, Jenks might be able to obtain a permit that would allow the school to use the ramp area for parking, despite the initial zoning approval that did not specify that purpose. With the potential for opening up more parking spots, Lynskey was interested in the possibility of helping to clear up Chestnut Hill parking, which remains one of the most significant issues in the neighborhood.

After the neighbors made their argument, the committee recommended reaching out to City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ office by writing a strongly worded letter explaining their situation. While such a letter would likely be drafted by the neighbors, the committee determined that it would likely get more attention if were submitted by a group like the Chestnut Hill Community Association. The LUPZ also recommended making the neighbor’s case to the CHCA, which would likely come at the next board meeting on Oct. 26.

As for Jenks, Lynskey said she has attempted to make peace with the neighbors, but her offers have been rejected thus far, such as when she invited them to a Thanksgiving dinner last year but received no responses. Based on everything she has seen from them, Lynskey said she feels that the neighbors lashing out like this is a result of a predetermined and unfair evaluation of the school.

“The neighbors have already judged that everything that’s wrong is somehow Jenks’ fault,” Lynskey said. “I’m just not sure how allowing two teachers to park in those spots for health convenience impedes on the neighbors’ rights.”

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

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