Central Jersey College Prep Charter School’s Plan To Move Hits Road Bump

Engineer Craig Stires discusses plans for a new home for the Central Jersey College Prep Charter School at the Dec. 15 Zoning Board meeting.

A township charter school will have to wait until after the new year to find out if it will be able to relocate.

Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, which now occupies part of a building on Schoolhouse Road, wants to move into space in a Mettlers Road building. The school plans to take up two, two-storey wings of the facility, and also build a 9,800-square-foot addition to house a gymnasium and locker rooms.

The school needs a use variance, because schools are not allowed in the zone in which the building sits, and some setback variances.

The school’s current site “is not the best, and they need to get out of there,” Peter Lanfrit, the school’s attorney, told the board.

Lanfrit said the school would like to be able to open in its new digs in September 2017.

The school is chartered to teach a total of 624 students in Kindergarten through 12th Grade, but now only has classes for students in grades K-2 and g-12, school principal Namik Sercan told the board. Sercan said the school draws from Franklin, North Brunswick and New Brunswick.

An application has been filed with the state Department of Education to allow the school to add another 624 students in five years, he said.

It was the location of the gym that caused the most discussion among board members. As currently proposed, the building is very close to a loop road that circles the campus, and is about 70 feet from a natural gas pipeline. The township requires structures to be 100 feet from such gas lines.

The line’s owner has agreed to the incursion, the board was told.

Still, some board members and professional staff were not happy with the siting.

The plan showed that the gym’s placement results in part of the loop road having to be moved, breaking the symmetry of the curve in a spot where buses are planned to line up.

“That should be a smooth curve around that building,” said Mark Healey, the township’s principal planner. “Instead, it goes in and out which will not allow for a smooth queue among the buses.”

The project’s engineer, Craig Stires, said he was “just trying to keep it (the building) as far away from the gas line as I can.”

“Well, maybe you need to make the gym a little smaller,” Healey said. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense, it should be corrected.”

Some board members questioned why the gym couldn’t be placed in between the two wings that are going to be occupied by teh school.

David Feldman, the project’s architect, said they considered that, but decided against it because the gym would block the windows in that section of the building.

Feldman said they could not shrink the size of the gym because the school plans to have championship tournaments there, and needs a full court. The gym will hold about 320 people, he said.

Parking was another bone of contention with the board. The plan calls for 282 parking spaces, well more than the township ordinance requires. But board members were concerned about overflow parking when the school has a major event, such as back-to-school nights.

The answer, Sercan said, would be to stagger the back-to-school nights on different days so every parent didn’t show up at the same time. He said that would also be done for other events.

Board member Joel Reiss noted that the school wishes to use all of the available parking, and that half of the building remains vacant. What happens, he said, when another tenant comes in and has no place to park?

“There may or may not be” another tenant, Lanfrit said. “This is a 30-acre site. If another tenant comes in, we have enough room to build another entrance and create additional parking There’s a lot we can do.”

The only members of the public who spoke during the hearing were Board of Education members appearing as private citizens. Board president Ed Potosnak, vice president Nancy LaCorte and member Richard Seamon questioned safety aspects, parking and future enrollment of the school.

Potosnak noted that the application had not been seen by the state Department of Community Affairs for an “educational adequacy” review, so the layout could change.

“If, for some reason, we have to change the footprint of the building, then we would have to come back to this board,” Lanfrit said.

The state’s Land Use Law allows an applicant before the zoning board to have their case voted on by seven members. There were only six members attending the Dec. 15 meeting, prompting Lanfrit to ask for a continuance to allow for the seventh member and also for his client to review the suggestions made by the board, particularly the one about moving the gym.

When board chairman Robert Thomas said the next meeting would be Jan. 5, 2017, Potosnak asked that it be held at a later date because, he said, that is the day of the school board’s reorganization, and the three members would not be able to attend.

After some discussion, it was determined that the 120-day approval clock on the application will run out on Jan 9, 2017, so the board decided to stick with the Jan. 5 date.


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