Asbury approves permit for local school to open campus at Skate Country

ASBURY, Iowa — A local school’s plans to purchase Skate Country in Asbury and transform it into a second campus took another step forward Tuesday.

Members of the Asbury Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a special permit that would allow Tri-State Christian School to operate at the Skate Country property.

Skate Country, located at 5630 Saratoga Road, closed recently after decades as a popular recreation spot. School leaders hope to buy the property and a neighboring parcel of land, but in order to do so, they needed board approval of the special permit.

Skate Country moved to the Saratoga Road location in 1996 and closed May 30. By 2023, its skating rink might be transformed into a school gym.

Classroom space would be added to the building and, if purchased, the neighboring parcel would be kept as open green space set aside for recreation or future growth.

Currently, Tri-State Christian serves kindergarteners through high school seniors just down the road from Skate Country at 5025 Saratoga Road. Older Tri-State Christian students learn in modular classrooms on the current campus.

“The whole reason for us wanting to move forward with this is because we have had substantial growth in our school,” Tri-State Christian building committee member Steve Fuerst said at the meeting. “We have seen our enrollment go up.”

Tri-State Christian moved to Asbury from Galena in 2018. Since then, it has been considering facility expansions as student numbers have increased from about 90 to close to 150.

Fuerst said that though a renovation could be done on the school’s current property, there would be no opportunities for future growth beyond that.

“There would be no more room for expansion,” Fuerst said. “We would be pigeon- holed into a location that might be too small for us.”

Should the Skate Country deal go through, Tri-State Christian plans to move the elementary school students to the new property and add a preschool.

The current Tri-State Christian campus would serve as a secondary school.

“We as a school board and as parents, most of us prefer a single campus,” Fuerst said. “But that’s kind of where we’re at.”

Shawn Hilborn, another member of the building committee, said the second campus could help with traffic flow, as the Skate Country parking lot is larger than what is available at the school’s current location. Additionally, students would now be spread out at two locations instead of condensed at one during pick-up and drop-off times.

Zoning Board of Adjustment members generally were supportive of the project but emphasized that it needs to be completed on time.

Board Member Ben Rousch said he generally supported the special permit but was adamant that the project needs to be completed by 2023, which is when Tri-State Christian hopes to have it finished.

City Administrator Beth Bonz was similarly concerned that the school both move into its new campus and remove the modular units from their current campus following the current timeline.

“What kind of assurances are you going to give the city that we’re not going to have two unfinished campuses five years from now?” she asked.

The Tri-State Christian building committee representatives said they hoped to have renovations done before 2023.

After discussing the school’s request, the Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the permit on the condition that relevant classroom activities would be fully moved to the Skate Country location by Aug. 31, 2023.

“By using it for this purpose, then we lose that tax income right now,” Board Member Larry Nagle said. “So the city is making some sacrifice. We want to be sure that this is successful.”