Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – After years at the Six Rivers Masonic Lodge on Bayside Road, top-ranked Northcoast Preparatory Academy (NPA) will have to find new teaching quarters for the next school year. “This was something that we didn’t see coming,” said Michael Bazemore, NPA head of school. Reasons for discontinuing the school’s lease are unclear. Phone and e-mail messages to the Masonic Lodge weren’t returned.
However, NPA has already found new facilities it wishes to use – an existing house on school-owned property to its south, which could accommodate administrative offices, and a capacious two-story house down the hill on Union Street which could provide classroom space. That facility would be rented, with an option to purchase it the following year.
Regulatory hurdles have already proven the biggest challenge, and satisfying permit requirements could stall permanent relocation for another year.
The easier of the two migrations will likely be the administrative office on NPA-owned land known as the Wayne Property adjacent to the Masonic Lodge “annex.” It is located in an area zoned Coastal Rural Residential.
The City building official and Arcata Fire personnel have inspected the settlement-period home with NPA representatives, and found the facility adaptable to professional use.
More difficult will be obtaining the required Conditional Use Permit and Coastal Development Permit. As an educational insitition, NPA may be able to have the CUP waived, but not the CDP. Meanwhile ADA improvements are underway at the site.
Issues include the proximinity to Fickle Trickle Creek, seismic concerns and how the conversion might affect what might be considered a historic or cultural resource.
NPA submitted an application for the office move, but the City’s Community Development department deemed it incomplete, according to Joe Mateer, senior planner. A revised application has been submitted. The City suggested creation of a historical survey and biological assessment, band the school is looking to satisfy those requirements.
Down the hill, the big purple house on the Hoyle Property might one day be a teaching space, but planning issues there are even more daunting.
Zoned Residential Medium High Density with a planned development overlay, use of the property will require a Coastal Development Permit and Planned Development Permit. These are far from rubber-stamp permits, and will require intensive consideration from the Coastal and Planning commissions. This could take six months even under optimal conditions, Mateer said.
He said concerns for both properties include, along with environmental, seismic and drainage issues, “the big picture” – how the intended uses will fit in with other facilities in the area such as attorneys’ offices, the Equinox Learning Center and senior housing complex, among others.
Nonetheless, and contrary to rumors, NPA will teach a full range of classes next year. Bazemore said the Arcata United Methodist Church on 11th Street has agreed to rent the school five classrooms and assorted other rooms until the new locations are secured.
“I wouldn’t see anything changing in terms of the curriculum and programs,” Bazemore said.