By Dave Russell
Two zoning requests in Sylva came to the Planning Board last Thursday. The requests could potentially bring major projects to town and a public hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the regular town board meeting.
The first request the board heard came from Brianne and Edward Hudak of Franklin. Brianne Hudak introduced herself as a former principal from Charleston, South Carolina, an adjunct professor at Western Carolina University and an education consultant.
The Hudaks are “dreaming and planning” for what they are calling a private microschool serving high-ability students in Jackson and surrounding counties, Brianne Hudak told the board.
“The school will be called Journey’s School for the Gifted and Talented and it is an independent brick-and-mortar school,” Hudak said. “It is going to serve 60 students K-8 at full capacity. At Journey’s School exceptional learners are going to receive personalized learning plans that meet their unique needs and they will evolve with them as they move through their academic journey.”
The school would be accredited through the N.C. Association of Independent Schools, she said.
The Hudaks do not expect traffic to be a problem at the location, Edward Hudak said.
“You’re talking a maximum of 60 students,” he said. “We could stagger drop-off and pickup to make it to where it is 15 kids at a time.”
The Great Smoky Mountain Fitness Center, currently on the property, probably generates more traffic than Journeys would, Edward Hudak said.
“We would open doors August of 2024,” Brianne Hudak said. “As far as impacting the county and community and beyond, we’re looking at needing about 15 to 20 employees. We actually live in Franklin but we were very excited when this property became available in Jackson County here in Sylva because we feel like this area is growing and developing and we can meet the needs of families, especially being so close to WCU.”
The Hudaks plan a school that is very “community-based.”
“That’s the heart of it,” Brianne Hudak said. “We want this to be a proud representation of what Jackson County and Sylva have to offer.”
Future expansion would be “a wonderful thing,” Brianne Hudak said.
Fitness trails are on the property and an amphitheater could be on the horizon, Edward Hudak said.
Adjacent property owner Cliff Stanis of East Sylva Circle said he didn’t have a problem with the school.
“My concern is the traffic on Skyland Drive,” he said. “It’s a speedway.”
Stanis asked about rumors in the neighborhood about a driveway from the school coming through private property, but board members assured Stanis that would not happen without a prior easement in place.
Should the requested rezoning take place, a future land plan would go to county planning for review to ensure the project fits its new zoning requirements.
A unanimous vote by the Planning Board sent the zoning request to the Sylva town board for a public hearing.
The town posted a public hearing sign beside the driveway up to the gym.
“The purpose of the hearing is to review a zoning amendment application from CJ Properties requesting a change of zoning from General Business to Professional Business,” it read.
The proposal was sent to the town board for consideration and a public hearing at its 5:30 p.m. May 11 meeting.
On the Dillsboro side of town, Catherine Connors and Gary Ellis, of Solstice Partners, Inc. in Cary, are hoping the town approves a change from general business district to a conditional district for a 48-unit mix of affordable housing in the town’s ETJ. The 7-acre parcel on Savannah Drive between Nicol Arms Apartments and Parris Cemetery has seen attempts at development before.
The current zoning is general business in the ETJ. A conditional zoning district would establish rules only applicable to that particular property.
Creating a conditional zoning district is a “legislative decision,” meaning new standards would be established by the town board and applied at the same time.
The project would include three two-story structures consisting of eight one-bedroom units, 28 two-bedroom units and 12 three-bedroom units, a community center with a laundry facility, computer center, playgrounds and a covered picnic shelter with tables and grills and two play areas.
The town board will consider the request and hold a public hearing at its 5:30 p.m. May 11 meeting.