Council Bans School from Building Dorms

Pioneer Academy of Science may sue town for changing code.

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.”

Rob Burke February 16, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Kudos to Councilman Schweighardt, for suggesting that the Council get formal legal advice from the Township Attorney prior to casting a vote. Despite the Council's failure to follow Schweighardt's suggestion, he deserves to be recognized for his prudent suggestion. Legal advice prior to taking action in contentious matters can be the difference between losing a ton of money in a lawsuit and not losing any money in a lawsuit. I take no position on the issue of dorms at this school -- I'm not familiar with the facts. I do strongly support fully informed decision-making by governing bodies, like Councilman Schweighardt suggested.
D G February 16, 2012 at 10:32 PM
This issue is one for the planning or zoning board, isn't it? I believe that the council has no authority in this matter. Please correct me if I am wrong. Not taking sides, just making an observation.
Justice February 17, 2012 at 10:08 AM
"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." That statement says it all. It is exactly what the status quo of Wayne does not want. Keep the broken system the same, no matter what the cost. Dxxxxx the torpedoes, full steam ahead. Anyone who does not fit, is SHUNNED. It is as simple as that. I don't know why this school would want to come to Wayne, other than to make use of the BAE location. Actually, they are the ones who would be doing Wayne a favor, filling up an "eyesore", as the status quo of Wayne says of their UNDESIRABLE elements.
Cathy Kazan February 17, 2012 at 03:43 PM
This school would be no different than any other "Boarding" school. We have those all over our country. I agree that Councilman Schweighardt made the prudent choice to table the matter for more legal input. Unfortunately, his esteemed colleagues did not agree. I hope this does not end up costing us more than money. Another black eye for Wayne perhaps? Can we add blatant intolerance to our list of misdeeds?
R. Ringers February 17, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Let's see now ..... let the school use the building or let another big building in Wayne be unoccupied and another eye soar. There is the Kearfott building next door that is empty and the Toshiba building that is nearly empty. All these buildings should be occupied...right. What is the problem???
Al Scala February 18, 2012 at 02:11 PM
The Council again handled the matter poorly. They made an uninformed decision for God knows what reason. I'm sure it was political in nature, somewhere along the line.
MarkMunoz April 22, 2012 at 10:39 AM
The reason is called "Gulen Movement" they manage / operate over 130 charter schools in the USA and similar Gulen "inspired" schools worldwide. Plain and simple they are liars and have an agenda and it ain't about education. http://www.gulencharterschools.weebly.com http://www.gulenschoolsworldwide.blogspot.com
MarkMunoz April 22, 2012 at 10:43 AM
eye "sore" R. Ringers nice name, maybe next time explain to us why 92 of your applications, expansions and renewals have been DENIED and only 22 know applications are either pending or in limbo. You lose America wins. Uzbekistan got smart, so did Russia, then Turkmenistan and soon many many more. HOW DO YOU LIKE US NOW?
Ahmet Can December 14, 2013 at 01:22 PM
The school and dorms were built. They did a great job. It is a great institution and is seconding its first student to Harvard.


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