It’s full-speed ahead for renovations at Chapin High after the state Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a challenge to the $45.9 million in improvements.
A stream at the center of a two-year legal battle was filled in last week as site preparation continues, school spokesman Buddy Price said.
Wednesday’s unanimous court ruling was a setback for Lexington-Richland 5 school board member Kim Murphy and political allies.
The group is challenging parts of a package of improvements for classrooms in the Chapin, Irmo and Dutch Fork areas approved by Lexington-Richland 5 voters in 2008.
Students who have endured overcrowded and outdated facilities at Chapin High are the “real winners,” school board chairman Robert Gantt said.
“It’s really sad when we have to go through this process to carry out the will of voters,” he said. “I hope and pray this nightmare is over.”
Murphy called the loss disappointing but took credit for changes that she said assure less damage downstream.
That feature is “an accomplishment we value which will help preserve what’s left of the stream,” she said in a statement.
Supported by some environmental groups, she challenged plans to fill in a 727-foot section of the stream in the middle of the 82-acre school grounds.
School officials called it a ditch occasionally filled with rain, but Murphy contended it should be protected as the headwaters of local creeks.
Once used as an outdoor science classroom, the stream in the dispute was covered partly for sewer lines, a road and parking lot.
State environmental officials gave the go-ahead for the plan, after cutting the section covered in half, with school officials also protecting wetlands in nearby Newberry County as part of the deal.
Filling the ditch will lessen erosion and improve water quality in the stream, while the contention that creeks downstream would be harmed is “tenuous,” the top state court said in rejecting Murphy’s appeal.
Developers had been concerned that a victory for Murphy could prevent building anywhere near streams, but the court said that should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
The legal battle added nearly $8 million to the original cost of the renovation, as well as nearly $1.5 million in legal expenses and design changes, school officials say.