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Day Care Proposal Prompts Review of Spring Road Traffic

Kensington School plan gets first OK from DPZ Committee.

Kensington School Founder Barbara Marlas said she has wanted to bring one of her schools to Elmhurst for decades. Now that her wish is closer to being granted, residents around Spring and St. Charles roads might get more traffic control on Spring Road.

The Development, Planning and Zoning Committee on Monday gave preliminary approval to Kensington School's request to build a 15,000-square-foot day care and preschool on the east side of Spring Road, just south of St. Charles Road.

The school, which has eight current locations, would house about 140 children, from infants to kindergarteners, and about 22 staff members each day.

Zoning and Planning Commission members recommended approval of the school at their Jan. 10 meeting, but they also asked the city to consider ideas to relieve traffic issues on Spring Road between St. Charles and the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

The DPZ Committee praised the plan, noting that the stormwater detention measures and low amount of impermeable surface made this a better fit for the area than the nine single-family homes originally planned for the site.

“This would have far less impact than the nine homes would have,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Norman Leader.

Two curb cuts were requested, but the south entrance would not allow left turns onto Spring Road. Barbara Marlas told the committee that while there are a few busy times during the day, the fact that the school is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. means traffic ebbs and flows.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Than Werner told the committee the city will investigate whether there is enough right-of-way to allow construction of a left-turn lane on southbound Spring Road. A new left-turn lane would allow easier access into the proposed school as well as to Elmhurst Presbyterian Church. Werner said the discussion would also involve Elmhurst District 205, since the York High School stadium is across the street from the proposed school.

Committee members were also pleased that Kensington officials had met with neighbors, and that local residents had attended the zoning meeting to speak in favor of the project.

The project will now go before the full City Council for approval. Kensington hopes to break ground in March and open in the fall.

5DecadesInElmhurs January 29, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Traffic is a diversionary side issue. The real discussion should revolve around rezoning a residential area into a commercial district. Once the rezoning occurs, anything can happen. If the day care moves, or fails, what will go into the commercial structure? The borders of the current commercial districts need to be frozen in order to prevent the erosion of the residential neighborhoods.
Mark D January 29, 2013 at 07:03 PM
This is a great transitional use for the property, and it has been underutilized for too long. Even in a good market, the place would not sell for single family without major risk, more impermeable surface in an area that has had a few water issues, and traffic (10 trips per day). The key issue is making sure that the plans take the traffic off Spring quickly so that there is no stacking. The left turn in is a great call, but the City and D205 should look at this with an eye towards expansion of Spring from school property and a condition that a reasonable number of seats be reserved for at risk kids or preschool for all kids to attend with those kids with parents willing to pay the tuition. The more area kids served in this area, the better off all of us will be given how much money is being spent on kids coming unprepared into our schools. Looking back at the minutes and agendas (and no minutes seem to be on the website), I don't see the rezoning noted, but the uses in the office district are pretty tame. Commercial, possibly not, but there are a lot of bulk and other requirements that control use too.
Mark D January 29, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Ten trips per day per home... Traffic in that area is a problem that is regional and cannot be solved with just one project. Plenty of intensity elsewhere already leaves people with cut-through traffic from St. Charles and West to the Pr. Path and Spring and St. Charles along Argyle and Mitchell. Get the day care in there and see what you can do with the regulations if the City needs to avoid commercial intensity if a pretty solid applicant sees trouble or a move down the road. It could be as simple as allowing day care as a conditional use in the R-2 if abutting a commercial district on certain streets or blocks.
fittnessfanatic January 29, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Please please please do a traffic study and at the right times. As a long time south side resident, and taking several kids and trips to york high school between the hours of 7a.m and 7:45 a.m. and picking up between 2:45-3:30, and multiple busses coming out of york after school can be a logistical nightmare. At times the morining traffic /cars are lined up south of the railroad tracks, and you have students trying to pull into the football field to park. After school it is reverse, and sometimes you cant get through the light at spring and St. Charles. Stadium use at York, on home game days, not only football games, track meets, lacrosse games soccer games. Traffic starts to enter the stadium at 3:00 some days. Additionally, where is the water going to go? It is wet there now, a 15,000 sqft bldg is more than there is there now. The city is batteling water problems now. Also someone pointed out the zoning issue. that area would not serve commercial very well.
Genet Pinkerton January 29, 2013 at 08:53 PM
We need another preschool/daycare/kindergarten like we need another coffee or ice cream/smoothie shop. Seems to me that the planning and zoning administration don't really care what they "okay" or who goes out of business in process.
Genet Pinkerton January 29, 2013 at 09:00 PM
There is child care provided at the Presbyterian Church and at York HS. The traffic at that intersection can be backed up for blocks during drop off and pick up times for York and anytime that there is a game. It can take up to twenty minutes to go three blocks. The water and drainage has been sited as an issue there as well. I don't claim to know all the details, but on the surface, it does not appear to be a good idea for the neighborhood.
Mark D January 29, 2013 at 09:38 PM
http://www.iff.org/resources/content/3/1/documents/Early%20Care%20and%20Education%20in%20Illinois%20Report.pdf Above link is to a recent survey that includes Elmhurst. Shows need in 0-2, 3-5 and 0-5, as well as in the risk categories. Having good preschools helps a bunch with cost avoidance at the elementary level and beyond in some cases. Regardless, an assessment of competition isn't something that the Council can get into very easily. I have not seen where the neighbors stand reported very frequently on this issue, but the daycare plan takes away a lot of uncertainty that has prevailed over there for a decade or more. Looking at planning and the intensity being discussed above, you would likely be seeing some kind of a density change above single family, but no one has come along with a residential proposal that could be carried out.
5DecadesInElmhurs January 29, 2013 at 10:22 PM
The property in question is zoned Residential. The current and past owners of the parcel knew the zoning conditions when they purchased that land. If there are issues with ramming multiple homes on that site, then it is the owners problem. If the zoning there is changed, then that will lead to the commercialization of that corner. Why is the City being asked to pay for this parcels owner failure to due diligence? This is a very bad idea!
Alan Brinkmeier January 29, 2013 at 10:46 PM
I wanted to clear up some facts being misrepresented. The Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance allows schools in residential districts. There was no zoning change requested. One wouldn't be granted without a request. The conditional use was fully vetted. Public testimony was overwhelming in support for Kensington School to come to Elmhurst. I was there. All of us on the Commission heard the sworn testimony. City Hall was full. The neighboring property owners in attendance all spoke in favor of the applicant’s request for Conditional Use. All welcomed Kensington School to Elmhurst. Storm water management was addressed to the satisfaction of our Commission, the neighbors, our Public Works Dept. and the owners. The owner had a comprehensive traffic study that showed the Kensington School let out times would not conflict with the known traffic concerns on southbound Spring Road, a route we on the Commission call a residential collector street. The staggered let out times well after York lets out made great sense to good traffic management. Out of caution to make sure it was fully studied, our Commission recommended that the City and its traffic engineers review Spring Rd as a collector street, from the CN railroad tracks north to St Charles, to examine any possibility of improvements to the right of way, such as a southbound left turn lane, that would improve traffic flow. A City traffic review is being done. No one wants more Argyle traffic. Alan Brinkmeier Commissioner
5DecadesInElmhurs January 29, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Is Kensington a "for profit" business? Or is it a religious or charitable institution? If it is for profit then they are engaged in commerce, as in a commercial entity needing commercial zoning. In any case, that parcel had houses on it, and should continue to hold houses. Let Kensington find a location that does further pave over the town!
fittnessfanatic January 29, 2013 at 11:37 PM
If I had a preschool age child, I would not want my child at that location, so close to tracks, as we all know all it takes is a quick turn of the head, and the lure of trains to attract a little one towards the tracks. If this goes forward, I hope the city does not put one red cent into the project, and collects the taxes on the property. Why didnt the church take it or the school district for parking that is sorely needed? or even an additional athletic field.
5DecadesInElmhurs January 30, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Er, should be "does NOT' pave over the town!
Genet Pinkerton January 30, 2013 at 02:44 AM
I am absolutly a proponent for quality preschool; I believe that it is the first building block for a successful education. The research clerly shows that DuPage is not at risk or in need of additional child care. If need is the reason for Kensington building a new facility, Addison is where they need quality care and are at risk. I also think that it should be one of the Councils jobs to do an assessment of competition to ensure the success of all businesses in Elmhurst.
Senator Breckinridge January 31, 2013 at 02:07 PM
i'm not sure why it matters, but the Kensington schools run by the Marlas family are all operated as "for profit" businesses. you can look them up at the business services tab of the secretary of state web site: www.ilsos.net
Jim Court February 02, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Does a school like this generate tax dollars. If not then I am in agreement with fittness that the land might have been better served by parking that later could be developed if desirable. I am sure Mr. Brinkmeier did everything correctly. I don't know enough about this to make a reasoned and complete judgment. I did at one time suggest a teen center that the town sorely lacks and is near York High School. Perhaps I should just sit back and listen.
Alan Brinkmeier February 02, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Jim Yours is a valued voice in this community. Kensington School is a for-profit entity. That topic is a side issue and is a red herring. The laws in Elmhurst relate to schools, not the profit status or non profit status for land use. So the true diversion about this discussion is for profit vs. non profit. Schools are embraced in our neighborhood schools approach in Elmhurst and have been for over 70 years. I also honor the discussion points by fitnessfanatic. As regards safety, I walked the distances involved personal on the property. A toddler at the school would have to get out of a locked gated playground that has but one entrance, cross about 25 yards of paved parking, traverse dozens of feet of uphill stonework and only then would the toddler encounter the CN Canadian tracks. I judged the risk as minimal. I have kids of my own. I remember well the toddler years. A youngster leaving Silverado Grille is closer to the train tracks than a student at Kensington School will be. I think the development will be safe. I studied the development plans, the Public Works materials and cross-examained the sworn witnesses at the public hearing. I spent dozens of hours on this. I along with the unanimous sentiment of the neighbors, the experts and the committee alderman believe this proposal by Kensington Schools as an education asset is a positive land use for Elmhurst. Thanks for all the comments everyone. Alan Brinkmeier City Commissioner
Tamara Brenner February 03, 2013 at 12:12 AM
The Zoning Ordinance allows for "Elementary Schools, Junior High Schools, Senior High Schools, and Colleges and Universities" as conditional uses in R2. It also allows for "Accessory uses and buildings incidental to and on the same zoning lot as principal use as follows: ... Child day care center, pre-school, within a public or institutional building..." I don't see where Pre-School is allowed as a conditional use in R2 as a principal use of the property. And if Pre-School is the principal use, as it would be in this case, then it is not an accessory use. Elsewhere in the Zoning Ordinance, "day care centers and pre-schools" are specifically listed as permissible stand-alone conditional uses, language that does not appear in relation to R2. This development might indeed be a great use for the property, but I question whether it is proper and permissible in an area zoned R2.
Mark D February 03, 2013 at 04:51 AM
Tamara, kindergarten was not a traditional elementary school function and it is not required under Illinois law to even be offered in Elmhurst. But the fact of the matter is that it has been offered for a long time. The City must have found that elementary schools are K-5 and, even though the school has only K, it has an elementary program under Elmhurst standards and most others. The age classes leading up to it would be accessory since the main purpose is to get kids to kindergarten and beyond. The interpretation is entirely plausible, and better than a map amendment. I am not all too sure that it is better than being a conditional use in limited areas of the R-2 (or other R districts for that matter). It's almost irrelevant because the Kensington site is not very similar to many other R-2 properties in town and the City would not be forced to accept day care on other parcels. Alan has a point on traffic, but people commenting likely were not at the meeting and I do not think the minutes were posted so they would not have known what was said or done. (That is why I didn't see anything on the map amendment someone else brought up.)
Tamara Brenner February 03, 2013 at 12:53 PM
The transcript of the Zoning Commission's public hearing as well as other application materials are included in the agenda packet for the upcoming City Council meeting on Feb 4, posted on the City's website this past Thurs, Jan 31. Based on these documents, there has been no discussion about classification of the project as an Elementary School due to the inclusion of kindergarten. At every point, the project is clearly and specifically referred to as a Pre-School (and Day Care Center). The Zoning Ordinance lists Elementary School and Pre-School/Day Care Center as different uses. An Elementary School would be a permissible conditional use in R2 while a stand-alone Pre-School/Day Care Center is not permissible. If a map amendment is what it takes for this project to comply with the Zoning Ordinance, then that's what should be done. I'm not sure why that recommendation was not made by the City Zoning Department in its Staff Report.

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