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Windsor Montessori school delayed over parking, traffic concerns from public

Approval of a Montessori school, located on the corner of Chestnut and Hawthorne streets in Windsor, was blocked after members of the public raised concerns about traffic and parking on July 25, 2017.
Approval of a Montessori school, located on the corner of Chestnut and Hawthorne streets in Windsor, was blocked after members of the public raised concerns about traffic and parking on July 25, 2017.

WINDSOR, N.S. – After a number of residents brought up concerns over parking and increased traffic for a proposed Montessori school on the corner of Chestnut and Hawthorne streets, Windsor town council has opted to take a step back to get more information before approving or denying the application.

For the proponents of the school, that means they’ll have to delay opening, and a September term won’t be possible.

The building would be considered mix-use, with private residences on the top floor, and a private school on the main level.

A Montessori school is a private, student-lead learning environment. The one proposed for Windsor would welcome up to 15 students, mostly pre-school age.

Rhonda Stephens was one of the residents that spoke up during the public meeting, raising concerns with parking on the narrow streets.

“If the proposal is to have up to 15 students, then I don’t look at it as there’s going to be five or seven; I look at it as there’s going to be 15,” she said. “When I imagine 15 parents dropping off children in the morning for school… on a street that has no parking, I don’t see how they can be accommodated.”

Stephens said she’s more concerned about how things will work in the winter months, when snow makes parking more problematic.

“This presents a traffic jam potential when people are going to work,” she said. “Hawthorne is a no exit street, and the only way anybody can turn on that street is… if we leave our driveways vacant. If we don’t, you can’t turn around.”

A few other residents brought up similar concerns including: tricky sightlines, a nearby bus stop, poor snow clearing and more.

Most said they don’t have an issue with this type of school, but argued that it’s just in the wrong location.

 

Council agrees to delay

Given the number of concerns, council agreed to delay voting on the proposal to allow staff time to clarify some of the concerns.

Deputy Mayor Laurie Murley said she would have liked to receive this level of feedback sooner in the process.

“Maybe we need to do a better job of making sure people are aware of these particular issues,” Murley said. “Here we are at the very end of the process and then suddenly people are arriving with concerns that should have been addressed at the beginning.”

Windsor council agreed to hold a special council meeting on the proposed school on Aug. 14, where they will receive an update on the proposal and debate it before voting.

Council had to schedule a special meeting, as they don’t sit during the month of August.

Doug Parrish, the development officer with the town, initially offered a positive recommendation for the proposal to council, but agreed that given the concerns from the public that staff should take another look.

 

Approval of a Montessori school, located on the corner of Chestnut and Hawthorne streets in Windsor, was blocked after members of the public raised concerns about traffic and parking on July 25, 2017.

Frustrations with delay

Joe Cuffari, a local business owner and the spouse of the Montessori school’s operator, said some of the concerns brought up by the public were “red herrings,” but he appreciates that this is the process.

“The school isn’t happening for September, there’s no way now,” Cuffari said outside council chambers. “Unless there was a good certainty tonight, we’re not going to spend any money until we know what’s happening.”

Cuffari said he’s estimated exterior renovations would cost $10,000, plus purchasing school equipment, another estimated $20,000.

He said there is a chance they may be able to open the school for the winter term if the concerns are addressed and council approves the updated proposal.

“It’s a little disappointing but it’s the process and we’ll run with it,” he said.

Cuffari said he was disappointed with some of the neighbour’s comments, given the experience with the previous Montessori school on Grey Street.

“Even at our previous location, we didn’t have all of these cars showing up at once,” he said. “We expect some parents to enroll multiple children and don’t foresee 15 drop offs at once. With any luck, we’ll have people from the neighbourhood as well who won’t need cars.”

He also said some of the slides that were used to show off the project were out of date and didn’t address the latest parking plans.

The former Montessori school ran from 2003-10. Enrollment started with eight students and grew to 32 when it ended.

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