CARY – District 155 received a blessing from the village for its Cary-Grove High School auditorium project to move forward without formally asking for one.
The Cary Village Board on Tuesday approved allowing public and private schools to have building heights of up to 50 feet, as long any space above 30 feet is not occupied.
The new regulation was proposed as the school district and the village had discussions on a planned $8.5 million auditorium project.
The planned height for the auditorium is 46.5 feet, which exceeded the previous building code by 16.5 feet.
According to village documents, the additional height is needed to accommodate a “fly loft” for aerial displays and to lift scenery as part of theater productions.
During discussions between Cary and District 155, the district said it did not want to go through a variance request process.
The variance, however, most likely would have been approved, Cary zoning board members have said.
So village officials opted to propose a text amendment that applies to all schools, and allows District 155 to move forward with the auditorium project without asking for village permission.
It is a way to avoid litigation similar to the Crystal Lake South High School bleacher controversy. That litigation is currently under appeal.
To minimize the effect on surrounding properties, every foot above 30 feet would require an additional two feet of setback. Cary-Grove High School’s auditorium will have a setback of more than 395 feet from the front yard and more than 500 feet from the nearest side yard, according to village documents.
The auditorium project is scheduled to begin in August and take about a year to complete.
The village’s previous zoning ordinance didn't take into consideration the needs of schools today, said Community and Economic Development Director Chris Stilling. A typical gymnasium ceiling may now be 35 to 40 feet high to accommodate certain activities, such as volleyball.
"Designs of new schools have changed, and there may be a need to address this trend in our zoning ordinance," Stilling said on Tuesday.
Stilling added the change gives all schools flexibility to address changing needs in the future.
The changes also are consistent with the village's rules for one of the park and open-space zoning classifications, PO-4, which allows structures to be up to 50 feet tall, according to village documents.