Harford County Zoning Hearing Examiner Robert F. Kahoe Jr. has recommended that the county grant a special zoning exception to permit a Fallston church to provide classroom space and parking for a preschool.
Fallston Country PreK's plan to lease space owned by Grandview Christian Church at Route 152 (Fallston Road) and Pleasantville Road would have to meet four conditions imposed under Kahoe's ruling: limiting enrollment to 140 children to avoid traffic impacts, filing a traffic impact analysis before enrollment reaches 100, sending enrollment information to the county's Department of Planning and Zoning and getting "all applicable permits and inspections" for the school.
Jan Bracken, director of Fallston Country PreK, said Thursday that 140 "a perfect number for us."
She stated during a June 5 hearing on the special exception that enrollment is expected to be 93 to 94 children between the ages of 2 and 5, but that the student population could be as high as 140.
Bracken is the former director of the Fallston Community Pre-Kindergarten at Fallston Presbyterian Church, about three-and-a-half miles southeast of the Grandview property.
She and some former Fallston Community staffers are working to form the new school. Bracken said Kahoe's ruling was "one of the last pieces" of the process of applying for state certification for the preschool.
She plans to open Sept. 9.
"We've had great community and parent support, so that's been wonderful as well," Bracken said.
Church and PreK program officials applied for the special exception to establish a school on land zoned for agricultural use.
Kahoe wrote in his eight-page ruling, issued Monday, that "it is found that there will be no particular impact by a Pre-K school with up to 100 students at the proposed site and, due to its large parcel size and direct access to well-traveled and adequate adjacent roadways, the impact should in fact be less at the location proposed than at many other potential locations in the district."
Planning and Zoning officials recommended limiting the enrollment to 140 and making the traffic impact analysis a condition for approval.
Kahoe's report stated that if a school has an enrollment of 100, either part-time or full-time, "the school will be operating just below the 250 trip count which will trigger the need for a Traffic Impact Analysis."
Kahoe noted the church received approval in August 2000 to host James Run Christian Academy with "up to" 80 students "with no reported problems."
Grandview Church, which occupies 15 acres with its church building, parking lots, pavilion and playground, no longer hosts James Run.
Fallston Country Pre-K would lease three classrooms, an office and storage space, according to Kahoe's report. The church's 114 parking spaces would be open for the school's use, a number which the report stated would be "many more than sufficient for the Pre-K operation."
Bracken said during the hearing that the school would be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 to 5 p.m. each day during the week, from September to May, with occasional evening or Saturday morning events.
"Typically the school will have up to 60 children on-site at any one time as each child only attends school for part of the week," the report stated.
Gregory Dorrell Sr., associate minister for the church, testified that he did not expect the pre-K programs would affect church activities, and "sufficient parking spaces are available for the pre-K," the report stated.
Benjamin Orlando, who was representing the owner of a neighboring property, expressed his concerns at the June 5 hearing about traffic, and what impact the school would have on future development of the nearby Rite Aid property, which is also at the Route 152 and Pleasantville Road intersection.
Kahoe stated in his report that Anthony McClune, deputy planning and zoning director, did not expect the preschool to affect "the allowable use on the Rite Aid property if the special exception were granted."
Anyone who wishes to appeal the ruling for review by the Harford County Council, in its capacity as the county Board of Zoning Appeals, has until 5 p.m. on Aug. 19.