West Windsor approves school near Village Grande

Couple to open their third Montessori school after reaching accommodation with neighbors.

By: Shanay Cadette
   WEST WINDSOR — The Planning Board granted preliminary and final major site plan approval Wednesday for a Montessori school next to the Village Grande retirement community, but with several conditions.
   Those conditions focus on the upkeep of the retirement community’s entrance and sidewalks, the placement of a refuse container, additional landscaping, the size and design of fences, traffic-calming measures and other issues.
   Wednesday’s audience was again packed with neighboring residents who had shared a laundry list of concerns with the board earlier this month about the proposed school at 270 Village Road East. The 2-acre site abuts the retirement community and is bordered by Cardinal Flower Lane and Grande Boulevard.
   Applicants Alan and Eileen Spiewak of West Windsor own two accredited Montessori schools in Plainsboro. The proposed West Windsor project is expected to hold 100 children and cost at least $1.5 million to complete, the couple has said. The existing 6,500-square-foot building to be occupied by the school was slated to be a sales office and day-care center in the 1990s.
   "It appears to me the sales center was placed (at) the convenience of the developer without any thought of the consequences to the homeowners," said Planning Board Chairman Marvin Gardner, who also lives in Village Grande. He did not participate in board deliberations because of the conflict of interest.
   Of particular concern to residents was the fact that the school’s owners would have been responsible for the upkeep of half of the landscaping, sidewalks and a sign at the Village Grande entrance that actually belongs to the retirement community, yet technically sits on the 2-acre site.
   "There’s a disconnect of ownership," Mr. Gardner explained. "So basically, you’re dealing with a situation where 2 acres seem to be controlling 283 acres in this particular instance."
   Mr. Gardner said most of the residents’ concerns were addressed Wednesday. "The applicant was generally responsive to the issues that were raised by the residents and the township consultants," Mr. Gardner said.
   The applicants have agreed to an entry element easement giving the homeowners’ association authority to maintain both sides of the Village Grande entrance, including the plantings, fencing, grass and other aesthetics. The ultimate responsibility for the sidewalks on the side of the school site still must be worked out, Mr. Gardner said. The Spiewaks also agreed to extend fencing to prevent illegal parking by nonresidents at Village Grande and change the fence design, move the refuse container near the entrance of the school, change traffic patterns and stagger student arrivals, among other things.
   The school is expected to open in September.