Live updates: Council clears path to approval


Shun Graves

The Ross Town Council begins its discussion about Branson’s enrollment increase, Feb. 8, 2022. This marks the council’s second discussion of the topic.

By Shun Graves

In its second meeting on the topic, the Ross Town Council settled Tuesday on a modified plan for approving the long-awaited Branson enrollment increase.

After a grueling first meeting last month, the council took a more restrained approach on some of its most restrictive ideas. In conditions drafted before this meeting, the council had proposed, among other new rules, to prohibit home playoff games. It backed off.

But in a reminder of the first meeting, a long public comment session tilted strongly in favor of the enrollment increase. Speakers blasted the proposed conditions as “draconian,” and called on the council to make a decision.

And some issues discussed during the fraught first meeting did not arise. Brekhus did not pursue her proposed geographic limit on new students, and the council reached a compromise on restricting amplified sound.

The nearly five-hour meeting has spawned another meeting — but only one more. The council will decide on a modified plan for approving the enrollment increase next Tuesday morning.

Live updates

9:50 p.m.

Town staff will craft a modified set of approval conditions for the enrollment increase. The council agrees to continue the meeting — to vote on the measure — Feb. 15 at 8:30 a.m.

Live updates have ended.

9:43 p.m.

The council takes a five-minute break. It seems a final decision will require a council meeting at a later date.

9:41 p.m.

Robbins says approval of a plan should take place in another meeting.

9:37 p.m.

Kuhl says the council should not add plans for a pedestrian path along Fernhill. “It’s something else,” he says. Robbins agrees.

9:34 p.m.

“I think it’s going to be really difficult to draft something that covers everything,” McMillan says of a proposed number of monitors.

9:30 p.m.

The council moves on to what Robbins calls “loose ends.” Current topic: neighborhood monitors.

I think it’s going to be really difficult to draft something that covers everything.”

— Julie McMillan

9:21 p.m.

Brekhus and Robbins have pushed for the school to compensate the town for future staff time. McMillan concurs, but Kircher and Kuhl have doubts.

9:15 p.m.

Town staff respond to questions from Robbins over how Branson will select a traffic consultant.

9:10 p.m.

The council has made progress in addressing several topics. But as its discussion on the traffic plan continues, the council still seems several steps away from a conclusion.

9:05 p.m.

Robbins questions if traffic monitoring can end. Brekhus wants continuous monitoring.

The Ross Town Council continues its discussion of traffic management. (Shun Graves)

9:00 p.m.

The fifth hour begins. The council continues to discuss traffic monitoring.

8:55 p.m.

“I like a lot of their proposals,” Brekhus says of Branson’s traffic management. But monitoring should take place in both fall and spring, she says.

8:50 p.m.

Brekhus and Robbins have called for traffic monitoring during the spring as well. Brekhus has not brought up last meeting’s enrollment radius idea, and has signaled support for a more constructive traffic plan.

8:42 p.m.

“I don’t like fining Branson,” McMillan says, urging traffic monitoring to instead take place earlier during the school year.

8:40 p.m.

The council begins to discuss traffic. Robbins says the school’s plan “falls far short of guaranteeing that you have, most of the time, net-neutral traffic.”

I don’t like fining Branson.”

— Julie McMillan

8:34 p.m.

Town staff say restricting amplified sound and facilities use will “negate” the impacts of an enrollment increase.

Many issues remain for the council to address. The council has not yet discussed traffic, and a decision still seems far away.

8:28 p.m.

Brekhus wants an earlier restriction on amplified sound, with most events ending by 7 p.m. and three others allowed to end at 10 p.m.

8:20 p.m.

“I think it’s pretty dumb,” Kuhl says of restrictions on amplified sound. He and Kircher disagree with the rest of the council, which wants to keep restrictions for sound at athletic events.

The Ross Town Council discusses restrictions on amplified sound at Branson. (Shun Graves)

8:17 p.m.

McMillan calls play-by-play announcements at championship games “pretty disruptive.”

8:14 p.m.

Robbins accepts the school’s plans around youth groups using Branson’s athletic facilities. The council now moves on to discussing amplified sound.

The council — even Brekhus and Robbins, who criticized the school’s plan at the previous meeting — has adopted a more conciliatory tone with the Branson’s plans. The council will likely not proceed with its most restrictive conditions.

8:05 p.m.

“We shouldn’t be running a school,” Mayor Pro Tempore Beach Kuhl says of Branson. “We should trust them to handle matters appropriately.”

8:00 p.m.

The fourth hour begins with the council’s discussion of allowing youth groups to use Branson athletic facilities.

We shouldn’t be running a school. We should trust them to handle matters appropriately.”

— Beach Kuhl

7:58 p.m.

The council discusses allowing youth organizations to hold athletic events at Branson. See the referenced plans.

It appears the town will not prohibit home playoff games.

7:55 p.m.

Mayor Elizabeth Robbins suggests “we back off on no playoffs.” Councilman Bill Kircher and Councilwoman Julie McMillan concur. But Councilwoman Elizabeth Brekhus asks about including vehicle trips for external athletic groups for a traffic baseline.

7:48 p.m.

The council returns for discussion about the town’s proposed conditions.

7:42 p.m.

The public comment session ends. The council takes a five-minute break.

7:40 p.m.

Sina Shekou says the council should make a decision, as the public comment session nears an hour. And Craig Slayen urges the council to approve the enrollment increase.

7:35 p.m.

Robert Herbst, a Branson parent, speaks. “It’s a good plan,” he says of the school’s proposal. And Ryan Murr questions the town’s proposed conditions.

7:27 p.m.

Word of the evening: “draconian.” Speakers — including the current one, Ken Fineman — have supported the enrollment increase. But Charles Goodman, who served on the Town Council in the past, calls on the school to obey the town’s rules. And Fineman encourages further traffic monitoring.

7:25 p.m.

Will Bollini, a senior, calls on the council to approve the plan. The next speaker, Andrew Biggs, also supports Branson’s plan.

The kids deserve more. The teachers deserve more.”

— Blair Shane

7:22 p.m.

The next couple speakers have also urged the council to approve the enrollment increase; indeed, all speakers tonight have supported the school’s plan.

“The kids deserve more. The teachers deserve more,” Branson parent Blair Shane says.

7:16 p.m.

Matthew Salter calls on the council to improve how it approaches the process. “I don’t think you can renegotiate at the 11th hour,” he says, adding the council should approve the increase.

7:13 p.m.

“I feel like this is a personal thing you have against Branson,” Melissa Slayen, a Branson parent, says. “It’s so unreasonable.”

7:10 p.m.

Resident Marcia Skall urges the council to “think positively and cooperatively.” The next speaker, Elena Batalla, also supports the school’s plan.

The Ross Town Council hears public comments on the proposed enrollment increase. (Shun Graves)

7:06 p.m.

“I really hope you reconsider this proposal,” Gia Fisher, a senior, says of the council’s proposed prohibition on home playoff games.

7:04 p.m.

“I have never heard such onerous, such draconian conditions,” Damon Kerby says, urging the council to approve the enrollment boost. Eileen Sheldon also supports the school.

7:00 p.m.

The third hour begins as the public comment session continues. All speakers so far, including the current one, resident Bob Dickinson, have supported the school’s plan to increase enrollment.

6:58 p.m.

Resident Kimberly Rochat says the new conditions will “hurt the school,” and that the council has “second-guessed” experts. The next speaker castigates the council for the town’s “onerous restrictions” on traffic.

6:50 p.m.

Court Haslett asks the Town Council to approve the increase. And resident Billie Buck says the town should allow Branson to host more youth sports programs. So far — in a redux of the previous meeting — all speakers have supported the enrollment increase.

It feels that experts have been second-guessed.”

— Kimberly Rochat

6:45 p.m.

Resident Ted Williams calls the town’s processing fees an indicator of “how quickly government can get out of control.” The next speaker, resident Bill Poland, also supports the school in its enrollment increase.

6:40 p.m.

The meeting resumes. The public comment session will begin.

6:25 p.m.

The council takes a break, and will return in 15 minutes. A public hearing will follow.

6:22 p.m.

Brekhus asks her first question to clarify whether the current permit already restricts amplified sound for non-athletic events. It does not — the permit only restricts sound from athletic events.

6:20 p.m.

Branson’s presentation concludes. Hurd says the school has paid more than $133,000 to the town as it processed the school’s application.

6:17 p.m.

School attorney Riley Hurd calls for a “good-faith agreement” between the town and Branson. He continues the school’s response to the new conditions.

6:10 p.m.

Head of School Chris Mazzola says the town’s proposed conditions “interfere deeply and negatively with the operations of the school.”

Branson Head of School Chris Mazzola provides the school’s response to the new conditions proposed by the town. (Shun Graves)

6:02 p.m.

The council has finished asking questions to town staff. Now, Branson officials will present. Town Manager Krista Johnson says the meeting has 146 people in attendance.

6:00 p.m.

The second hour has begun. Kuhl has focused his questions on the costs of traffic monitoring and the permit application process for Branson.

5:55 p.m.

Kuhl asks several questions: How long the process has taken, how much the town has charged Branson and if town staff have considered the impacts on Branson, not just the town.

“I think it’s important to get an understanding of what got us where we are tonight.”

5:45 p.m.

Robbins asks about amplified sound. She questions why sound can continue late into the evening.

Kuhl has raised his hand.

I think it’s important to get an understanding of what got us where we are tonight.”

— Beach Kuhl

5:40 p.m.

Councilwoman Julie McMillan also asks about traffic monitoring. She reiterates Robbins’ hope for real-time traffic data.

Yet to speak: Councilwoman Elizabeth Brekhus and Councilman Beach Kuhl, the mayor pro tempore.

5:33 p.m.

Councilman Bill Kircher asks about potential violations of the traffic management plan. Traffic has defined these first few moments of questions for staff; athletics and other issues have yet to arise.

5:25 p.m.

The staff presentation has concluded. Now, the council will ask questions of town staff. Mayor Elizabeth Robbins begins by asking whether Branson can look at traffic data in real-time.

5:17 p.m.

Rupp overviews the options before the council. The council could prohibit on-campus playoff games and make Branson reduce its enrollment by one student per 2.69 vehicle trips more than the maximum.

The Ross Town Council receives a presentation on Branson’s enrollment increase effort. This marks the second meeting by the council on the topic. (Shun Graves)

5:12 p.m.

Town consultant Meredith Rupp gives a presentation on the items for discussion.

5:00 p.m.

The meeting has begun with all members in attendance.