A school in Clifton is considering suing the township after the town council approved an ordinance Wednesday prohibiting dormitories being built in town except in specifically zoned areas.
The Pioneer Academy of Science in Clifton wants to move to the BAE Systems building on Totowa Road and construct dormitories on the property.
The school wants to move out of its 18,000 square-foot facility and into a 160,000 square-foot facility and triple its enrollment from 200 to 600 students. The school recruits children from mostly wealthy families both in the United States and from eastern European countries, including Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Greece.
Town planner John Szabo said that the application is under review and has not been assigned to either the Planning Board or the Board of Adjustment yet. He also said changes could be made to the application. Dozens of proponents of the school moving attended the council meeting Wednesday.
The legislation amends the rules and regulations in the land development portion of the township’s code, which now states that dormitories may only exist in an open space/government use district. The council approved the ordinance by a 7-1 vote. Dorms are still permitted at William Paterson University and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Michael Rubin, the attorney representing the school, said that the next step is to go to court over the matter. Rubin said that the council is attempting to bypass state law by approving the ordinance.
“There are so many positives with this move both for us and for Wayne. Why wouldn’t they want the school there,” said Isik Durmus, the school’s acting vice principal.
Durmus said the move could lower class sizes in the Wayne Public School District because students would attend Pioneer instead and improve the local economy by boosting small business revenue. He added that families of children who attend the school would move to Wayne if the school is allowed to move.
“Wayne appreciates having a diverse community and this would only add to that diversity,” Durmus said.
Council President Joseph Scuralli said the ordinance is a routine piece of legislation and part of the normal planning process.
“We have a lot of dormitories here in Wayne, a lot more than many other towns around us do. It’s just proper planning and that’s an ongoing process. It’s nothing new,” Scuralli said. “We were elected to represent the interests of the residents and that’s what we’re doing.”