Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Straub Property and School Siting at Chapman Corners

If you live in West Salem - and even if you haven't - you've likely heard about the school district's newly public discussion about condemning a parcel of land at Chapman Corners for two new schools. (Statesman article here, and pdf here.)

The land holds an historic home that currently is held in the family of former Governor Bob Straub. (More photos here.) Interestingly, the family chose not to register it as an historic property.

Regardless of the disposition of the venerable house - and as its core building precedes statehood, it is venerable - there are other questions about school siting. The parcel is on a hill, near to two other schools, but also directly across the street from Fire Station 11. It is also on the current border of new housing development.

Siting additional schools there would seem to encourage more sprawl, and discourage kids from biking and walking to school.

At the same time, the West Salem Neighborhood Plan calls for additional density and commercial center development along Orchard Heights (yellow and purple on map), and appropriate development here might yield the kinds of walkable neighborhoods West Salem essentially lacks.

School siting can be complicated, but too often we settle for suburban land on the edges of development that makes it more likely parents will drive their kids to school and deprive them of the benefits of active transportation - walking, biking, skateboarding, and the like.

If you live in West Salem, get involved! Maybe there are other prospective sites that are more likely to yield compact, walkable neighborhoods.

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