A charter school for high school dropouts is buying a former synagogue building in West Toledo because it has outgrown its facility, but some are questioning the process for it getting the building.
Glass City Academy, now at 2276 Collingwood Blvd., is a "dropout prevention and recovery school" for students ages 16-21 who want to get their high school diploma.
The school signed a purchase agreement in January with the University of Toledo Foundation, which owns the former Congregation B'nai Israel building, 2727 Kenwood Blvd., to buy the building for the asking price of $1.3 million.
They've since been working through the process that includes a special-use permit for that building in a residential zone to be used for a school.
Last year, the Knight Academy, a charter school affiliated with St. Francis de Sales High School, went through the process and was approved for that special-use permit. But that planned junior high fell through for economic reasons.
But because of how the special- use permits work, it stays with the building, so Glass City Academy did not have to go through the process to get its own permit.
"The neighbors feel, as I do, that the special-use permit for Glass City Academy kind of came in the back door to be located at the former synagogue," Councilman Tom Waniewski said.
He fought to get the Knight Academy its special-use permit and said he now feels the Glass City Academy should go through the same process, which includes community meetings, because it is a different type of use.
"I think the residents feel they have no say in this and are hoodwinked by the SUP process," Mr. Waniewski said.
The school did agree to a request from Mr. Waniewski and the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission to hold a public meeting. That meeting took place earlier this week.
"We believe that we followed the process that is in the Toledo Municipal Code for the transfer of a validly issued special-use permit to a subsequent purchaser of the property," said Lane Williamson, an attorney representing the Glass City Academy.
He said the school went "above and beyond" what is required in holding that meeting with neighbors.
A revised traffic study was done, and the school was issued a "certificate of zoning compliance" by the city.
Matt Schroeder, vice president of real estate and business development for the UT Foundation, said there has been interest from the community about the future of the property for some time.
He said the foundation believes a school will complement the neighborhood and be a good neighbor.
The UT Foundation and Glass City Academy could close on the purchase within the next month, Mr. Schroeder said.
The foundation acquired the property in March, 2004, and it has been vacant since March, 2007.
The 36,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1955 and sits on just over seven acres of land. It has 12 classrooms, a large auditorium, and temple that seats nearly 700.
Glass City Academy plans to renovate it after building permits are approved by the city and have it ready for students at the beginning of 2010.
The school serves 11th and 12th-grade students who were unsuccessful in a traditional school.
It has been at the Collingwood location for six years and has outgrown its location with an enrollment of 172 students, said Janet Pershing, chief administrator for the school.
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