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Preschool eyes home next door, drawing concerns from neighbors

The proposed expansion of a local preschool drew concerns from neighbors about traffic and noise at a Planning Board meeting on Monday, while school operators said they have outgrown their current facility.

The Burbank Planning Board — which was slated to consider the expansion on Monday — postponed deliberations to Aug. 11, given that only three voting members were present after one had to step out due to a conflict of interest and another was absent.

Board member Christopher Rizzotti excused himself, noting that he owns a property on the same street as the proposed expansion, and board member Douglas Drake was absent.

“I think it would just be more fair for everybody involved,” said board chair Undine Petrulis, regarding continuing the item.

Burbank Temple Emanu El, a preschool and religious education center located in a residential zone at 1302 N. Glenoaks Blvd., has proposed expanding its facility to include a single-family home located next door at 407 Bethany Road.

The expansion would allow school officials to accommodate an additional 24 students and four teachers, for a total of 84 students and 11 staff members.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the demand for the preschool at the temple and now in order to accommodate the families in our community, we need to be able to grow our space and open the doors to additional families,” said temple member Limor Zimskind.

But neighbors who live on Bethany Road worried that the project would devalue their homes, as well as increase traffic congestion, parking problems and noise.

According to a city report, the interior of the house would be remodeled to include two classrooms, while the backyard would be used for gardening and learning activities.

Minor modifications are proposed for the exterior, including the removal of the existing driveway and curb cut-out on Bethany Road, a requirement by the city to deter drop-offs and pick-ups in front of the house.

All school traffic is proposed to be funneled through an existing 24-spot parking lot on Amherst Drive, which officials said doesn’t fill up during peak school hours. The preschool is in session five days a week, while temple services and religious education are offered on the weekends, as well as on Tuesday and Friday evenings.

Some neighbors expressed concerns about additional development in the future.

“This is kind of a game-changer that’s being forced on us by the city, and to me, it’s not fair,” said resident Stephen Miller. “I’m worried about the loss in property values.”

Others said they didn’t want a business operating in their neighborhood.

“If you have a business, why encroach on where single-family residents are,” said 40-year-plus resident David Stott. “You should go do this in a business area, not where all these families are.”

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