Monday, June 24, 2024

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Planning board hears plans for sale of Davis Street United Methodist Church

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has endorsed a pair of proposals that could plant the seeds for two very different facilities to nurture the community’s youth.

The first of these two child-oriented requests concerns a pediatric clinic that aims to provide a more wholesome environment for children with autism and other developmental disorders.
Located on some 2.308 acres at 606 East Davis Street, the proposed site of this clinic has traditionally been home to Davis Street United Methodist Church.

In order to repurpose the property for a more secular use, Jerry McGinnis of Shelby has submitted a request for general business development in lieu of the lot’s current medium density residential designation.

Billed as a “limited use” zoning request, McGinnis’ submission includes several self-imposed conditions that would constrain the site’s future activities to a short-range of uses – namely a medical or professional office, an outpatient treatment facility, and a coffee shop, bakery, or a sit-down restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.

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In order to connect the dots between these seemingly disparate uses, McGinnis introduced the city’s planning commission to Adi Khindaria of Compleat KiDZ, which operates a number of pediatric clinics across North Carolina.

Khindaria told the city’s planning commission that he and his colleagues would like to set aside a portion of the Davis Street property for a clinic that specializes in the treatment of autism. He also revealed plans for a “limited-use restaurant” in the church’s former sanctuary – “either a breakfast place like Bitty & Beau’s or 321 Coffee that employs kids with developmental delays or a high-end restaurant that is open in the evenings.”

Khindaria said that the proposed pediatric clinic would boast about 50 clinicians to serve an equal number of children aged 2 to 10 who have autism or other developmental disorders. He also insisted that this facility wouldn’t be a wholesale departure from the kid-friendly operations that Davis Street United Methodist had previously offered.

“This is going to be no different in the way it conducts business than the childcare facility that the church was running,” Khindaria went on to say. “We work with kiddos who are a little more disadvantaged in life…These kiddos get one-to-one skill acquisition treatment 20 hours a week.”


From church to consecrated “grounds”
Khindaria told the commission that he and his colleagues plan to reuse the church’s existing facilities for the proposed restaurant – with the hope that their resurrection will ultimately improve the atmosphere along this stretch of East Davis Street.

“Any time a coffee shop or a neighborhood bakery comes in, it enhances the value of the neighborhood,” he stressed. “Any time a that a high-end restaurant which is only open for dinner comes in…it generally has enhanced the value.

“The sanctuary is beautifully done; it’s historic; and we want to maintain it,” he added. “The sanctuary will accommodate the best business that we believe we can bring in there which is a coffee shop and a bakery that also employs children with developmental delays, and that will significantly enhance the value of the properties around.”

Khindaria’s predictions nevertheless raised the eyebrows of neighbor Vickie McDaniel, who acknowledged that she and her husband have some experience with autistic children.
“We also know they can run away and be very destructive,” McDaniel added. “What is the likelihood that damage will happen?

“I just wish this could be downtown or somewhere else, and that this could be townhouses,” the clinic’s reluctant neighbor went on to object.

In the end, most of the planning commission’s members were willing to give Khindaria the opportunity to disprove the skeptics. Even so, his plans for an accompanying eatery proved harder to stomach for long-time member John Black.

“The restaurant has me bamboozled; I’m not in favor,” Black said before he cast the lone vote of opposition in the commission’s 4-to-1 endorsement of the request.


An A-plus location
A second rezoning that had children in mind concerned a 1.727-acre parcel at 3549 South Mebane Street – location that’s just one block removed from the site of Marvin B. Smith Elementary School.

Billed as a “straight” request for office and institutional use, this proposal wasn’t originally slated to have its particulars revealed to the city’s planning commission at its meeting on Monday. In fact, Juhann Waller, a civil engineer for the site’s would-be developer initially told the commission that his client merely wants “to develop this property to the highest and best use.”

Waller agreed to relinquish more details about his client’s venture after the commission’s chairman Richard Parker observed the wide range of uses that could conceivably be developed in an office and institutional district.

“My client plans to do a daycare at this facility,” Waller went on to explain at that juncture, “which would be consistent with the adjoining development of the adjoining school.”

Waller added that the daycare would potentially serve 100 to 120 students once it opens its doors – some of whom could conceivably walk from the elementary school to the nearby childcare center after school lets out for the day.

Although the proposed daycare drew no opposition from the city’s planning staff, it did elicit some discontent from neighboring property owner Robin Hanson. Among other things,

Church neighbor Margaret Hanson

Hanson objected to the fact that the applicant had approached the city “without an actual plan” for the daycare. Hanson also shared some additional concerns about traffic that the daycare would generate.

Waller tried to reassure the group that his client has already touched base with the state’s transportation department, whose representatives he said had no overarching misgivings about the congestion along this stretch of South Mebane Street.

The commission went on to give the request its unanimous nod, 5-0, clearing the way for it to go before Burlington’s city council next month.

What will existing congregation do, where will they go?

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