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Judge clears way for rural Montessori school

A judge determined the St. Croix County Board of Adjustment acted properly in approving a special exception permit to allow Heartland Montessori to open a preschool in the town of Troy.

Decisions regarding the use of the single-family house at 436 Red Brick Road now lie with Heartland's board of directors, said Cheryl Johnson, Heartland's head of school, Tuesday.

Heartland, which bought the house last year, has rented it out in an attempt to recoup some of the expenses, said Johnson. The school closed it campus on Rodeo Circle in Hudson and now operates only one school in River Falls.

In his order filed Aug. 19, St. Croix Judge Edward Vlack affirmed the BOA's decision to permit the school.

The proposal had been to accommodate up to 25 students plus 15 children in a Discovery program. In issuing the permit, the board set 15 conditions.

Vlack's decision is in response to a complaint filed July 2008 by 23 neighbors who oppose locating the school in the rural residential area. They argued the Board of Adjustment hadn't properly considered the increased traffic, impact on home values, plans for expansion and nuisance from noise.

Opponents also argued that schools shouldn't be allowed in agricultural/ residential zones.

"Schools are expressly permitted in a strictly residential zone, so it is reasonable to conclude that a school may be one of those mixed uses that arise when an agricultural area becomes more residential," wrote Vlack in his decision.

After reviewing reports of hearings held in April and June 2008, Vlack found there is ample evidence of the BOA's deliberations and reasoning with regard to traffic and the impact of more vehicles in the area.

For more, please see this week's print edition of either the River Falls Journal or the Hudson Star-Observer.