Colonie preschool expanding at a new site
A preschool that won a legal case over its proposed new site is getting ready to open, but not where originally intended.
The Spotted Zebra Learning Center wanted to build a new school near its location just off Everett Road. But Rod Abele, owner of a tractor firm that is the town's oldest continually operating business, filed a lawsuit opposing the project, fearing it was too close to where he demonstrates heavy equipment.
This month, the state Supreme Court ruled the town Planning Board acted properly in approving the preschool and rejected Abele's lawsuit. With that decision taking more than a year to arrive, owner Sheri Townsend decided to seek a new location. She found one in a building that once housed Protective Industrial Products at 26 Computer Drive East.
Now workers are busily preparing the space for the preschool and a related business, Bizzy Beez Activity Center. Both will offer programming for children with autism and sensory issues as well as those without special needs. She is investing $1.75 million in the project, not counting funds spent on the originally planned site.
Townsend founded Spotted Zebra in 2005 when her own child was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
"When we were looking with our own son for a program, it was a struggle," she said. "We want families to feel like their dreams are coming true, that their children are going to the preschool they've always envisioned."
Half the 50 students have autism or sensory issues.
In its current location, the school has 50 students. The new location will enable her to offer more roomy classes as well as a library for parents and children.
When she decided to expand, Townsend reached an agreement to buy land farther down Kross Keys Drive from the school's current location. The Planning Board approved the project, then Abele sued. As the case took more than a year to resolve, Townsend and her husband, Scott, who is the project's architect, began to look elsewhere.
Linda Mandel Clemente, the lawyer representing Abele, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the ruling. She said Abele has not been informed by the Townsends or the property owner, Norton Home Builders, the school has chosen a different location.
Townsend said the Computer Drive site will almost triple their space from 4,000 to 11,600 square feet. Protective Industrial Products, the former occupant, moved to a building owned by Plug Power.
"We feel very blessed to have found this after all we went through," Townsend said. "It's going to allow us to really expand programming."
Bizzy Beez will be on one side of the building, Spotted Zebra on the other. The new business will offer a large room where students can play on special equipment that helps with their gross motor skills. There will be a simulated bike ride, simulated surfing and other equipment. A smaller "serenity room" will feature calming sights, smells and activities with fiber-optic stimulation meant to help children calm down and focus.
"Occupational therapists and physical therapists struggle with where to bring a child," Townsend said.
Unlike the preschool, parents or therapists will be able to bring children for onetime visits, as well as purchase a package of visits, to Bizzy Beez. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The cost for use of the facilities has not yet been determined, Townsend said, but people interested can call the school at 438-4800.
Students in the occupational therapy program at Maria College will be assigned there.
The connected businesses are expected to open in June. Townsend plans to add 12 to 15 more staff to her current total of 25 employees.