Residents who live near a private Jewish school in southern Sandy Springs worry that a rezoning proposal will open the doors to uses of the property they don’t want to see.

Chaya Mushka Children’s House (CMCH) at 5180 Roswell Road held the first of two community meetings on June 25 to get feedback from local residents about its plans. The school is requesting a zoning change to commercial/mixed-use. It’s currently zoned as “office neighborhood,” which doesn’t allow for the school use. 

Only the parcel on which the school is located and the accompanying parking would have its character area changed in preparation for rezoning to allow the private school use, if Chaya Mushka Children’s House gets its requests approved. (City of Sandy Springs)

“Technically, the private school should not be operating even though it has been here for three years. I think the process we’re seeing now is simply to bring everything into alignment with the Sandy Springs development code,” said Jordan Edwards of the Galloway Law Group, which represents the school.

The school needs to get the property rezoned to a designation that allows private school use. But before they can do that, the character area designation has to change from neighborhood village to commercial/mixed use, Edwards said. The entire process will take until March 2022 at the earliest to complete.

One community member likened the rezoning process to “trying to perform surgery with an axe.” He said this rezoning is a big one for this district.

Several residents suggested a better route for the school was to get a conditional use permit to operate on the site.

But that’s not possible for a private school in the current zoning. Permits are allowed in some residential districts, but this property is not zoned residential, Edwards said.

Another resident asked why the school doesn’t take the easy solution to find a property in the state that is zoned properly.

The school has ties to the community with most students and their families living there, Edwards said. It’s difficult to find another location that makes sense.

“We’re hoping that we could stay here without much disruption to the neighborhoods,” said Rabbi Isser New, executive director of the school.

Edwards said if the zoning requests were unsuccessful, the school would not be able to operate in the building. Rezoning is one option to fix the problem, he said.

CMCH has been operating at this location since 2018. Approximately 100 families have children enrolled, with 120 students. Most of them live in the area. The school is affiliated with the Beth Tefillah synagogue on High Point Road, Edwards said.

“So of those 120 students, about 25 to 30 of them come on the bus. And that’s our main mode of transportation if you don’t live here,” New said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.