Special to Tri County

UPPER UWCHLAN - The Downingtown Area School District's reported interest in building a new high school or other facilities on land belonging to Robert W. Fetters Jr. along Milford Road has residents concerned.

Fetters says the district's attorney phoned him about the district's interest in his 141-acre family farm, where he lives; however, he said he would not speculate about what the district has in mind for his land.

"I don't have any idea about what might happen or might not happen," Fetters said.

Township Manager John J. Roughan Jr. said the school board's solicitor, Guy Donatelli, has approached him, and informed him the district has an interest in two or three parcels of land for a school complex.

Resident Bryce Ritter, who owns a cabinet-making business along Milford Road, worries the township's rural infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle an increase in traffic that a new school could create.

"I already know there is one house up on Milford that is for sale because they know there is a school coming," Ritter said. "I just happened to be over by the school over at Lionville; there were hundreds of kids coming out of there in vehicles, and you are going to put that on that little road over there?"

Ritter has added concerns because of the presence of trucks hauling propane from a depot along the road on a daily basis.

"I just know that because I live up there," Ritter said. "I don't know if you saw television this week, but in Texas, a propane farm blew up."

Roughan said the township would have the responsibility to ensure the school district performs adequate road improvements should the rumors prove true.

"Right now we don't have anything formal," Roughan said. "But, I can say if the school district does purchase the Fetters property, it would go through the standard land-development procedures with regard to lighting, traffic, ingress and egress."

He said propane trucks and school buses share roads all over the country without incident, but should the propane truck issue arise during a hypothetical land-development process, it would be dealt with then.

The school district, however, would not confirm its interest in Fetters' property.

At the school board's meeting on Wednesday, Ritter reiterated his concerns directly to the school board, and asked if it was looking at any other sites.

"We can't discuss land deliberations, it's confidential," said board President Alice Johnson. "I can assure you that we hear you and are taking into consideration what the public says."

"The thing I don't like about it is that you can take it by eminent domain. That's not fair to the public or anybody," Ritter said. "You're spending our tax dollars. Tell us what you're spending millions of dollars on that are in your coffers."

Donatelli repeated that the district could not discuss prospective land deals, because of escalated prices that could occur by disseminating such information publicly.

"I live in Upper Uwchlan, and I also share your concerns," Donatelli said. "For every site we looked at, every concern was studied by the board, our consultants and my office."

Prior to the meeting, district spokeswoman Pat McGlone said no decision has been made by the school board to purchase any parcel of land.

She did, however, confirm that Donatelli had been given authorization by the school board to scout for an appropriate site for a third high school and middle school in a campus setting akin to Downingtown West.

"The school board, though, has hired an architect, but they are delaying any work until a site is found," she said. "We hope to have something in place in the next five years, but we will not jump until we get the right piece at the right price."

Staff writer Michael Crist contributed to this article.

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