School for Learning Disabled Wins Zoning Board Aproval

Will renovate former office building on Riverview Drive.

Zoning Board 11-13-132

Landscape architect Jeff Reynolds describes outside improvements planned for a Riverview Drive site.

A school for learning-disabled children will have a new home in a former office building on Riverview Drive.

The Center School, currently leasing space on Old York Road in Branchburg, received Zoning Board approval at the Nov. 13 meeting to renovate the vacant three-story structure.

The 6-acre site is bordered by Apgar Drive and Weston Canal Road.

The school will house up to 130 children in grades Kindergarten through 12.

The school needed board approval for a use variance because the building is located in an M-1 zone which does not permit schools, and a bulk variance for a large sign that will be moved from the public right-of-way to the school property.

School officials plan to rip up a parking lot with more than 100 slots and turn the area into a playground for the students, landscape architect Jeff Reynolds told the board.

Other outside improvements include a basketball court, picnic area, and a playground for younger children, he said.

The front of the building would feature an edible garden behind a stone wall, he told the board.

The project’s architect, Yogesh Mistry, told the board that the renovated first floor will hold the Kindergarten school, a multipurpose room, a commercial kitchen and dining area, the pre-school area, wood shop and robotics classrooms and some administrative offices.

The second floor, he said, would hold an indoor play area, yoga and aerobics rooms and classrooms for subjects such as science, art and music.

He said the third floor would house the high school and the business administration and guidance offices.

Board member Donald Johnson wondered what type of security the building would have.

Rose Marie Iskowitz, the project manager, said the current location has a buzz-in security system.

The school will have at most 50 teachers, the board was told, and “95 percent of the students will be gone by 2:30 p.m.,” according to Peter Lanfrit, the applicant’s attorney.

Iskowitz said there are some after-school activities and an occasional evening event, but those, she said, “are few and far between.”

The office building was formerly occupied by Software House International, Lanfrit said.

He told teh board the school was founded in 1971 in Bound Brook, then moved to a Highland Park location. That building burned down, he said, forcing the school to rent space in Branchburg.

School officials want to own their property, he said, and picked the Franklin site.

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