The empty Country Day parking lot. (Photo by Elise Sommerhaug)

Zoning administrator approves request for increased building space, enrollment cap

On Aug. 14, zoning administrator Evan Compton of the City of Sacramento approved Country Day’s request to modify its Conditional Use Permit (CUP).

The modifications include a 12,000-square-foot increase in building space for the planned replacement of the Multipurpose Room and middle school “L” building with two-story structures,  raising the total enrollment cap 9%, allowing the permanent use of the two portable classrooms behind the gym and eliminating 50 off-site parking spaces.

“Essentially, we were awarded everything that we were hoping for, which is an expansion of square footage for future construction projects,” head of school Lee Thomsen said. “We no longer have to rent an off-site parking lot that we haven’t used for a long, long time. There were a couple of pieces about the temporary buildings in the high school that had been expected to have a lifespan of five or so years, and they’ve been turned into permanent buildings.”

Thomsen said the most important element of the permit modification is the enrollment increase, for the whole school and especially the high school.

“Previously, we’ve existed under an overall cap of 544 students with a high school cap of 144 students,” Thomsen said. “This new conditional use permit allows us to grow to 596 students and for the high school to grow from 144 to 180.”

There are a number of conditions to the approval, such as continuing to follow other city ordinances and adding additional bicycle parking and shared bikes.

Thomsen said Country Day is also contributing $150,000 to construct a traffic light at the intersection of Munroe Street and Latham Drive.

“The city has a system by which we, the school, contribute a fair share of the traffic to that intersection,” Thomsen said. “We don’t know the full price, but we’re contributing what’s called the fair share, an estimated 20% of the overall price. The last I have been told, it would be (installed) sometime during the calendar year of 2021. But given COVID-19 and budget cuts, I wouldn’t guarantee that it will happen on time.”

Before the modifications fully come into effect, Country Day also has to alter the Sierra Homeowners Agreement. 

“There is a binding agreement with the neighbors around Sacramento Country Day that was signed in 1996,” Thomsen said, “and the terms of that agreement include similar language about the 544 enrollment cap and 144 (high school) cap. Before we increase enrollment, we will continue the ongoing conversations we have with the neighbors to hopefully amend the 1996 agreement so that it would now be in line with the revised CUP.”

 As for replacing the school buildings, Thomsen said it will take several years before Country Day begins active planning.

“Before we could do either of those projects, we would have to undertake a capital campaign, asking for money from individuals, families and foundations entirely separate from money that operates the school,” Thomsen said. “And I would estimate that each of those projects are somewhere in the area of four to six million dollars. We are at best several years away from undertaking a capital campaign, particularly given the current economic circumstances.”

— By Nihal Gulati

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