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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.

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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