Portola Valley: Windmill preschool clears last hurdle as council approves permit


The years-long quest for a permanent home is officially over for Windmill School, a private nonprofit preschool that's been renting space in Portola Valley for more than 50 years.

The Portola Valley Town Council, in unanimous votes on Sept. 14, approved the measures and permits needed to clear the way for the school to begin developing the 1.67-acre plot at 900 Portola Road, former home of Al's (plant) Nursery.

Both the Architectural & Site Control Commission and the Planning Commission approved the project, and the Planning Commission will be reviewing the operation after a year to check on parking management and traffic impacts on Portola Road.

"For years, Al's Nursery was our ideal location," school capital campaign co-chair Monika Cheney told the council. "We're delighted that we are now able to develop it. ... This is a place where people come and make friends for life."

"We are finally moving on," said Karen Tate, also a capital campaign co-chair. "These types of projects take a village. ... We're all looking forward to building this school for future generations to come."

When complete, the preschool will have 10,593 square feet of interior space, including three classrooms and community meeting rooms, according to the conditional use permit. Maximum enrollment will be 132 students, with no more than 66 students at any one time and no more than 120 people on campus during operating hours.

Five times a year, for events such as the school picnic and fundraising, the maximum capacity expands to 200 people.

Preschool students will be from ages 2 to 5, and the after-school enrichment classes would be open to children through the eighth-grade, the permit says.

Plans for the outside include measures to shield residential neighbors on Wyndham Drive from noise -- an 8-foot-high sound wall and a "quiet-zone" garden -- as well as a redwood grove, a play yard for each classroom and, eventually, a farm for up to 12 chickens, 12 rabbits and two goats, the permit says. "No roosters," the permit says.

The school's operating hours will be 7 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., and after hours to 10 p.m. indoors, with outdoor use at the west end of the campus. The school would be available on weekends, with restrictions, and for groups such as garden clubs and Boy Scouts. Weddings, birthday parties and memorial services will not be allowed, the permit says.

Click here and turn to Page 197 for the complete list of conditions. (It may take a few seconds in that it's a large file.)

One-year checkup

A school in the center of town is a novel use, so a key point in the discussions leading up to the council's approval concerned the one-year review by the Planning Commission. As stated in the conditional use permit, the review will "determine if any additional conditions are necessary to ensure harmony between the use and the community," according to Town Planner Debbie Pedro.

The review will not address "fundamental operating conditions of the school," including its use as a preschool, after-school enrichment classes, hours of operation and maximum enrollment, staff and capacity during events, Ms. Pedro said.

The outline of what is and is not to be the focus of the one-year review reflects a protracted back and forth between the school and the town, given the hours of operation extending into the evenings and on weekends.


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