City Council members tonight will consider an appeal from neighbors in Orange Park Acres seeking to overturn approval of a $2-million expansion plan of Salem Lutheran Church & School.
On one side is the private, Christian-based school, which wants to accommodate a growing number of parents leaving overcrowded public schools.
On the other side are homeowners who fear losing the rural atmosphere that makes their equestrian community possible in an increasingly urbanized area.
At issue is a plan to build a two-story classroom building, a new parish building with a multipurpose room, and an improved driveway and parking lot on the school's five-acre campus at Frank Lane and Orange Park Acres Boulevard.
The fight has been brewing for nearly two years. The Planning Commission held a five-hour public hearing before approving the plan in April.
Under the plan, the student body would gradually grow from about 555 to 726 in kindergarten through eighth grades over the next six years.
By planting 98 trees as a buffer and improving the driveway and parking lot, most problems will be diminished, supporters say.
"I live at ground zero," wrote Terence J. Fowler in one of the hundreds of letters pouring into City Hall from both sides. "I have looked at the plans . . . and find them to be very compatible with the area."
But other neighbors, many of whom have horses and stables on their one-acre lots, are equally adamant that more traffic, lights and people would destroy the neighborhood's rural ambience.
"If expanded as proposed, [the school] will be vastly out of proportion to the area, will destroy the rural residential character of the area and will lead to all sorts of traffic and ingress and egress problems," said neighbor Richard J. Chrystie.
The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 300 E. Chapman Ave. For more information, call (714) 744-5500.