USC mulls daycare center

Published Apr 2, 2013 at 9:14 am (Updated Apr 2, 2013 at 9:14 am)

The owner of a property located on N. Highland Road near Abbeyville Road in Upper St. Clair would like to open a school/day care center in that location, however the township would have to amend its zoning ordinance in order for him to do so.

Alexander Bunson owns the property in question, a home located near Trader Joe’s grocery store on 266 square-feet shy of an acre. At a public hearing held the board of commissioners’ April 1 meeting, Bunson, along with planning consultant Roberta Saraf and Bob Santo, owner of the Goddard School in Peters Township, presented information as to why they think the location would be suitable for a school/day care center.

Bunson told commissioners and residents that it appears there is a “great need” for a day care center in Upper St. Clair. He added that he’s been approached by the owners of the Goddard School about the possibility of a day care on his property.

“This is a text amendment” to the zoning ordinance, Saraf told commissioners. She said with what they are proposing, the property would still remain zoned R-3. She said the township’s ordinance allows for semi-public uses in R-3 districts for places like churches and schools – but not day care centers. Also, the ordinance states that those semi-public uses must be on a minimum of one acre.

Saraf said the township’s ordinance provides for day care as an “accessory use to the semi-public use,” such as a church having a day care center in it. The text amendment Saraf and Bunson would like to see would provide for day care centers to be approved as a conditional use in the R-3 district.

Other R-3 districts in the township include Boyce Road and Fort Couch Road, which are a mix of both residential and commercial uses.

Santo said the Goddard School, which accepts children age 6 weeks to 6 years, would be “good for Upper St. Clair.” Santo projected the building could bring in $18,000 more per year in school taxes and added that, based on 10 children from the township attending the Goddard School instead of Upper St. Clair public schools for one year, the district could see a savings of $80,000.

Santo said about 20 students from Upper St. Clair out of about 200 attend the Goddard School, but he added that there’s a wait list of two years to get in the school.

“It seems to me we’d be happy to have such a school in the community,” said Commissioner Donald Rectenwald Jr. “It seems like a terrific addition to the community if it could be done.”

Board President Robert Orchowski stressed that the evening’s presentation regarding a possible school was in no way preliminary plans for a school. Township Solicitor Irving Firman added that all the board is looking at is the zoning amendment to allow day care centers in the R-3 district.

Many residents spoke out, both for and against the zoning amendment and the possibility of a school/day care center along N. Highland Road.

Francis Kilinsky, who lives on Patton Drive, said he’s concerned that a day care center will “lower the value of homes on Patton Drive.” He added, “It will add to congestion on N. Highland and Abbeyville Road.”

“It all sounds beautiful inside and out, but I’m sure none of you would want it in your backyard,” resident Mary Lou Blair told commissioners. “I would like you to consider not approving it.”

Resident Ryan Buries, who said his children attend the Goddard School in Peters Township, said the location there is very well put together. He said, “Whether that site (on N. Highland) is the right one or not is debatable. An additional day care facility that’s not affiliated with a religious institution is something that should be taken seriously.”

Resident Scott Berchel agreed with Buries that “There are none [day cares] in Upper St. Clair that aren’t religious affiliated.” Berchel said his children also attend the Goddard School in Peters Township and having one in Upper St Clair “would be a huge asset to the community.”

“It’s something that should be in Upper St. Clair. I’d much rather have it close-by,” said Michael Kalocay who sends his children to the Goddard School in Peters Township.

The public will have another opportunity to comment on the zoning amendment May 6 at a public hearing set for 7:30 p.m.

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