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updated: 5/6/2014 5:04 PM

Buffalo Grove considers whether to allow school in industrial zone

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Last year, the Torah Academy was forced to move to the Woodland Commons shopping center in Buffalo Grove after the former Congregation Beth Am, where it had leased space for about four years, became the Buffalo Grove Park District's Community Arts Center.

Now the academy, which serves preschoolers through fifth graders and has day care facilities, is on the move again, this time to what its leaders hope is a permanent home.

But first the Jewish elementary school needs to get village approval so it can occupy a building in an area currently zoned for industrial uses.

On Monday, the Buffalo Grove village board referred the matter to its plan commission for consideration.

"We are looking for a more permanent home and hopefully not to appear before you every year asking for a special use," said Rabbi Steven Zehnwirth, head of the academy.

The academy plans to move into a building on Armstrong Drive near Lexington Drive. Zehnwirth noted that there is a martial arts academy and offices nearby, and homes along Lexington.

The building, he said, consists of 6,000 square feet, with grass for a play area, just right for the academy's needs.

Officials noted that Buffalo Grove previously has allowed child care facilities in areas zoned for industrial use.

Trustee Jeffrey Berman said that not all areas zoned industrial are created the same.

"There are certain industrial parks, industrial areas that involve heavy machinery, etc., where it would be somewhat concerning to put a school," he said. "There are other areas where it is an industrial district, but really it is more or less office and not a particularly troubling area."

If the proposed site for Torah Academy falls into the latter category, Berman wonders whether there should be an outright rezoning.

"My mind is not made up on whether this is the right thing to do or not," he added. "But my mind is open, and I'm willing to hear the judgment of the plan commission."

Trustee Beverly Sussman offered a more optimistic outlook for the academy.

"It sounds like the kind of building that would be good for a school," she said. "It's near private houses, it's a low building. There is grass around. I don't see any problem with putting it there."

The plan commission's next scheduled meeting is at 7:30 p.m. May 19 at village hall.

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