Council approves Jewish center plans

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com

Jewish students at the College of William and Mary will have a new place of refuge in the years to come.

Williamsburg City Council members voted Thursday to afford the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation a special-use permit that would allow the Shenkman Jewish Center to be built at 406 and 410 Jamestown Road.

Three of five council members voted to allow the building, which will be about 3,200 square feet and will have two stories.

Both Mayor Paul Freiling and Vice Mayor Scott Foster recused themselves from discussion and abstained from the vote, since their spouses work for the college.

Currently, 406 Jamestown Road is zoned for a single family home, and 410 Jamestown Road belongs to the college. Foundation representatives want to erect a new building there and said in July they tailored plans for the building around preferences from its donors, Mark and Rosalind Shenkman.

Sam Jones, the college's senior vice president for finance and administration, said in July the buildingwill have a place for a rabbi, and that the school envisions it as a place where Jewish students and staff can spend leisure time.

“The one question we get is surprise that there isn’t already a Jewish center, “ said Vernon Geddy, an attorney representing the foundation.

Councilman Benny Zhang lauded the college and the nonprofit for the way the center was handled. Going through the nonprofit foundation made for general public input and accountability, he said.

“The college could have just owned the property and done anything,” he said.

Sabrina Fairbanks, who owns property near the proposed Shenkman Center, said she wished council had a parking study to draw from before making its decision.

“I feel badly that you’re being asked to make this decision,” she said.

Foundation representatives will bring their plans for the facade of the building to the Architectural Review Board for final approval at a later meeting.

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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