Geneva Academy’s road to a permanent campus has been a long one — and they still have miles to go.
Since purchasing land on Northwest Troost Street in 2013 the Roseburg private Christian school has been at a standstill, waiting on a potential urban growth boundary swap plan that could finally green light construction after years of waiting.
Geneva Academy began operating out of the Baptist church on Northeast Vine Street in Roseburg in 2013 and has grown each year since then. It’s anticipating a total enrollment of 150 students this fall and needs more space to accommodate them, said Brian Turner, headmaster of Geneva Academy.
The trouble with the Troost Street property is that it’s part of the Charter Oaks neighborhood, which has been the center of controversy for more than 10 years over where the urban growth boundary should be.
The urban growth boundary dictates where a city can grow new development and construction projects, said Ricky Hoffman, associate city planner in Roseburg. The land outside the boundary is intended to remain rural and undeveloped.
“We have property that is out there. ... The city’s trying to figure out what they’re going to do about annexing that area into the urban growth boundary,” Turner said. “We still don’t know if we’ll be able to build there or not. That’s all just on hold for now.”
The city has been eyeing an urban growth boundary “swap” rather than extending the boundary because it would require fewer bureaucratic hurdles to complete. The idea involves swapping some undevelopable property inside the boundary with 169 acres in Charter Oaks. The swap would solve the issue and avoid having to justify an extension to the state, Hoffman said. The plan could mean additional housing units for Roseburg.
“We have a significant amount of land that is constrained by a hillside in the city or Roseburg’s urban growth boundary,” Hoffman said. “So, what that does is it gives the opportunity to the city to then say, ‘OK, where is a more economical and appropriate location for land to be considered inside the urban growth boundary?’ Because we are no longer expanding it, we’re just simply taking lands that are currently inside that are constrained and are moving them to a different part of our peripheral community.”
If the swap is approved and the Geneva Academy’s Troost Street property ends up inside the urban growth boundary, it would be able to apply for a building permit or conditional use permit.
Meanwhile, Charter Oaks residents have been vocal in resisting development in that area, Hoffman said. In 2008, residents shot down a plan to extend the boundary into Charter Oaks.
The urban boundary swap idea was presented to residents in November and April. There, residents cited potential traffic flow and urban-level development in the area as reasons they opposed the swap, Hoffman said.
The school signed a rental agreement with Hucrest Community Church to host kindergarten through second grade in their classrooms in the meantime.
“Even though we like to have small class sizes, we just need more space, physically need more space,” Turner said. “So, by moving some of our grades — kindergarten, first and second — over to Hucrest Community Church, that’s going to relieve some of our space issues and will enable us to have a daycare and prekindergarten.”
The school began discussions about the land for the new campus as well as a capital campaign in 2016 that stopped after the school heard about the urban growth boundary.
“We were complete novices in this whole process. We thought things would happen a lot faster than they have,” Turner said. “Now, we’re being very careful and guarded about discussing any timelines. There are so many things that are just outside our control.”
If Geneva Academy is unable to build on the site, Turner said the school would sell the property and look for other land to build a permanent campus on.
“Whatever we do, wherever we go, we want to be good neighbors. We would want people to be glad that we were going to be in the same area, community, neighborhood,” Turner said.