Chabad Center of Kendall gets okay for day school

More than 40 members and supporters of Chabad Center of Kendall stood to cheer a unanimous 7-0 vote of Community Council Zoning Board 12 on Feb. 2 approving zoning for a new day school at SW 87th Avenue and Killian Drive.

They were part of a near-equal mixture of supporters and objectors to plans of the Killian neighborhood Chabad Jewish congregation (one of 101 in Florida) that has sought expansion since a proposal of a two-story school building was rejected in 2012.

Since then, the center at 8700 SW 112 Street has revised planning for a one-story center and sanctuary in two separate buildings, expanding school space as originally approved in Phase 1 planning dated Sept. 15, 1999, according to the zoning record.

The special exception for expansion is based on a previously approved 3,800-square-foot area for religious activity on an existing 1.63-acre parcel. The center has added an abutting south parcel to provide a total of 2.34 acres for the new and present buildings, parallel to the south side of SW 87th Avenue

An existing school accommodates pre-K through Grade 7 that will expand its enrollment by a maximum of 46 students in the new building, one of nine conditions attached for compliance.

New private school expansion in Kendall has been a continuing source of concern reflected in part by a list of conditions attached to the Kendall Chabad Center’s zoning that include building specific turn-lanes with a “minimum of four stacking spaces” and addition turning requirements within the site.

In its review of the application, the zoning staff ruled the development of a religious school compatible under the county’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan for Estate Density Residential uses.

The finding stated that the proposed redevelopment of two one-story buildings was “visually similar in scale and compatible with the one and two-story single-family residences and institutional uses that surround the subject property.”

Increased traffic and safety concerns were cited among several contentions expressed by objectors that eventually still failed to sway the seven-member board from another deferment, following a previous public hearing on Jan. 5 that postponed a decision, pending further study of traffic issues.

For nearly two hours, the East Kendall board heard more than a dozen residents of the Killian area voice objections, later rebutted by attorney Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, bringing Miami-Dade Department of Public Works Land Development Chief Raul Pino to the meeting where he confirmed that the new facility “does not exceed” acceptable roadway service levels.

Even before the approving vote, three board members — vice chair Jose Valdes, Elliott Zack and Peggy Brodeur — spoke out about their past concerns for any proposed building that would further impact area traffic.

Zack concluded, “But at this time, the center has met every requirement of county codes, and for that reason, provides no reason for me to vote against the expansion as planned.”

Concurring with the veteran members in the unanimous approval vote were chair Angela Vazquez, Alberto Santana, Javier Gonzalez-Abreu and Anthony Petisco.

Among the conditions for approval are extensive new landscaping, including plantings of a new hedge plantings, three feet in height that would grow to a six feet, as well as 87 new trees lining all four sides of the rectangular property lines.

The Chabad Center is located opposite a vacant parcel that has been approved for a new Killian library building but not funded for development. The board action is a recommendation, subject to a public hearing and final approval by the Miami-Dade County Commission.

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