Congregation Beth Hatikvah is set to open an early childhood center on it's property after the Summit Zoning Board of Adjustment approved an application for a use variance.
The synagogue is already an existing non-confirming use in a light industrial zone on Chatham Road. The Zoning Board granted them initial approval to exist in the light industrial zone in 2005.
Congregation President Katia Segre Cohen, testified Monday night that despite what they previously thought, the congregation will have to apply for a license to operate a childcare facility from the state.
"We expect to take 1-2 years to be able to gear up, to be able to open an early childhood center," she said.
Cohen said she expects the center to serve children between the ages of 2 and 6 and the regular hours of operation would by from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. However, the center would offer after-care until 6 p.m.The target, she added, would be to eventually serve no more than 80 students, requiring the equivalant of 16 full time staff positions.
"One of the things that's really important is that there is a 14,000 square foot building that is sitting empty for most of the day, most of the week," she said."We would like very much to use this completely underutilized opportunity. It is at the moment a considerable expense to support the building and this feels to us like a really good way to make use of this empty space and provide an important opportunity for our members and the community at large."
Enrollment at the early childhood center would not be contingent upon membership in the congregation or on being of the Jewish faith.
The Zoning Board approved the application 7-0 with several conditions, including that a designated drop-off and pickup zone be established on the rear of the property and parents not be allowed to drop-off their children along the curb on Chatham Road.
Elizabeth Dolan, a traffic consultant with Dean and Dolan Consulting, agreed with this condition and also recommended that drop-off and pick-up be coordinated in a one-way, counter-clockwise flow through the parking lot.
Dolan also said based on her study of traffic on Chatham Road and an analysis done based on a 100 student enrollment, she believes both Chatham Road and the congregation's parking lot have the capacity needed to handle the traffic movements associated with an early childcare center.
The full list of conditions is as follows:
- Must obtain approval from State Department of Human Services to operate a childcare center
- Must utilize a rear drop-off and pick-up zone
- Must install signage and striping for drop-off.pick-up
- Revise minor site plan to show a one-way traffic flow on the property
- Will not operate early childcare center on high holidays
- All drop-offs will occur on the property and parents will park on the property and escort their child inside
- Trash must be picked up more regularly
- Must obtain approval from the Board of Health to operate childcare center
- All previous conditions of approval from 2005 remain in effect with the addition that the traffic report filed annually to the zoning office shall now include the childcare center
- The number of students, staff, ages of children and hours of operation proposed in the application are not to be exceeded.