Darien Zoning Commission OKs Montessori school with valet parking if needed to ease traffic backups

Town Hall in Darien, Conn., photographed on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

Town Hall in Darien, Conn., photographed on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — A new Montessori-based childcare center is coming to Darien and could be open as soon as the upcoming academic year.

Members of the Planning and Zoning commission unanimously approved the childcare center during a Tuesday meeting without much discussion.

“I think it’s a great idea to have a Montessori school in town,” chair Stephen Olvany said. “I’m all for it.”

Guidepost Montessori plans on enrolling 56 children up to 5 years old, though the owners have said they want to increase enrollment to 78 children in the future. They need accreditation from both the state and the American Montessori founding Society in order to add additional slots, however.

They will also have to re-appear before the commission in order to get approval for any increased slots.

The new childcare center could help address a dearth of similar services in the area. No other facilities in Darien currently offer all-day, year-round instruction, the commission said.

Another childcare center — The Goddard School, part of the Noroton Heights redevelopment project — is in the commission’s pipeline as well. That project has yet to gain final approval.

Guidepost Montessori will take over an office building at 76 Tokeneke Road, replacing former commodities trading company Triorient LLC. Staffing will include one director and eight teachers.

At previous meetings, some members expressed concern about the lack of pickup or dropoff lanes.

With a limited number of parking spots, traffic congestion could quickly become a problem, commission members agreed at earlier meetings.

Robert Maslan, an attorney for the project, said the childcare center would reconfigure the parking lot to ensure smooth arrival and departure without backing up traffic into Tokoneke Road.

If traffic becomes an issue, the center plans on implementing a “valet service” with staff coming to vehicles to escort children inside, eliminating the need for parents to park and bring their children into the center. A traffic officer will be on site during the first week of school, he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, zoning staff member Fred Doneit expressed satisfaction with the way the center has promised to handle congestion.

“We've built enough flexibility into this to account for if there are issues or problems with the parking and traffic aspects of this proposal,” Doneit said. “It’s certainly within the best interests of the applicant to create a situation that is advantageous to its customers, as well as the town.”

The building itself is a 4,750 square-foot, two-story facility. The center will use the existing space to create four classrooms, administrative offices and restrooms and add two fenced playgrounds behind the building, the plans show.

The entire property encompasses not quite a half acre, according to documents filed with the commission.

The location has a two-way entrance drive from Tokoneke Road. It is bounded by the Metro-North Railroad to the north.