Mt. Pleasant Eyes Approval of Boarding School at Legion Parcel
Mount Pleasant Planning Board members last week praised a plan to bring a boarding school to Thornwood’s Legion of Christ property and could approve the project as soon as Dec. 16.
EF International Academy has proposed relocating the private high school from Tarrytown, which attracts students from across the United States and abroad, to a portion of the 265-acre Legion of Christ property located off of Columbus Avenue. The parcel is currently used as a training and conference center for the Roman Catholic religious order.
EF International is seeking to purchase 97 acres from the Legion of Christ if it can receive necessary approvals from the town.
Attorney John Kirkpatrick, representing the academy, said no new facilities are planned to be built on the property, although there would be renovations to convert office space to dormitories and classrooms, he said.
“The changes are strictly internal,” Kirkpatrick said.
For the project to proceed, EF International Academy, which has been located in Tarrytown since 2008, will first need a zoning text change from the town board to allow a for-profit school to operate in the Office Business Education Conference (OBEC) zone. Kirkpatrick said the OBEC zone is the only office district in town that doesn’t allow for-profit schools.
A public hearing on a zoning text change to allow the use is scheduled for tonight’s (Tuesday) town board meeting. The board could vote to approve the change before the end of the meeting.
If the zoning text change is granted, the planning board would then have to complete site plan review on the application. On Dec. 5, the planning board voted 5-1 to instruct town staff to draw up a resolution for approval for Dec. 16 in the event the zoning text change is approved by the town board this week.
The applicant is hoping to open the new location next September. An estimated 800 students and 100 employees are expected. College-level programs would remain in Tarrytown.
Though they had questions for the applicant’s representatives, comments from planning board members were mostly favorable about the concept.
Board member James Collins said he spoke with several Tarrytown residents who live near EF International Academy. They told him the school has been a good neighbor and students have displayed exemplary conduct.
Planning Board Chairman Michael McLaughlin said he supported the academy’s general plan, although he would not guarantee there would be a Dec. 16 approval, especially if there are unanswered questions from the public.
The lone dissenting vote on the planning board was Regina Pellegrino, who said she needed more information about the proposed school to support moving the application forward. Pellegrino said she wanted to learn more about impacts on traffic and the student-to-staff ratio.
It was important for the board to provide neighboring residents an opportunity to speak about the project, she added.
Dr. Brian Mahoney, the school’s headmaster, said classes run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays followed by one hour of afterschool activities.
“They are in their rooms by 10 p.m.,” Mahoney said of the students. He added that SAT preparation and other courses are given on weekends.
There would be one staff member assigned to each 25 students after school hours. Students would not be permitted to have their own cars on the campus.
School representatives agreed to provide the planning board on Dec. 16 with information about potential traffic generation.
EF International Academy President Mark Seman said the school would provide 24-hour private security and houseparent teachers would live on campus throughout the academic year. He said the campus would generate far less traffic than IBM had created when it operated at the site before the Legion of Christ. Prior to its use by the Legion, IBM held conferences and other functions at the site.
Planning Board member Denis McCarthy asked if regular bus shuttle service for students would be offered by the school to take students to off-campus locations. Seman responded that there could be some transportation occasionally provided to students, but there was no plan for regular shuttle service.
Aside from the Tarrytown campus, EF International Academy operates two schools in the United Kingdom and one in Canada.
Tuesday’s public hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. at town hall in Valhalla.