Wallingford special needs school considering expansion

Wallingford special needs school considering expansion


WALLINGFORD — High Road Academy, a school serving special-needs students, is considering expanding into an office building next door to its existing facility on Village Lane.

The school submitted an application to the town on Feb. 10 to use a 38,000-square-foot office building at 5-9 Barnes Industrial Road South for a special-needs educational facility.

Carrie Hartman, a school spokeswoman, said the school is considering using the property for the High Road Academy BEST Program, which serves students with autism ages 5 to 21.

Hartman said the academy is “evaluating options for a possible new facility, but no decision about a location or decision to move has been confirmed.”

The BEST program director, Amy Farmer, told the Planning and Zoning Commission last month that expanding would benefit students.

“Our students have significant sensory motor needs, so having a larger space to allow them the space to explore and to acclimate would be huge,” Farmer said.

Farmer said the number of students in the program has increased in recent years. There are now 29 students.

Town Planner Kacie Costello said the school’s application is being revised to make sure buses do not disrupt traffic flow. The application could be discussed at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s next meeting, on April 12.

The commission voted last month to ban educational, religious and philanthropic uses from the I-V industrial zone where the property is located. But Costello said the school submitted its application just before the regulation change went into effect on Feb. 17, so it will be considered under the old regulations. Village Lane is located off Barnes Industrial Road South.

Town officials pushed the change, in part, to prohibit tax-exempt educational organizations from purchasing industrial property in the zones and, in effect, lessening the tax base.

Assessor Shelby Jackson said the school is for-profit and pays taxes.

“We see ourselves as an integral part of the community,” Farmer said.

The new zoning regulations could prohibit any future expansion by High Road down the road, Costello said.

The organization moved into Wallingford in 1991, the year that educational organizations were first allowed in the I-V industrial zone. The school has expanded its footprint since 1991 from 2,000 square feet to roughly 30,000 square feet, according to Amy Souchuns, an attorney representing the property’s owner, Y & O Wallingford LLC.

mzabierek@record-journal.com 203-317-2279

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