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The town of Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley Children Care Council, Inc., have agreed to a memorandum of understanding about the potential use of a piece of land located at 17 White Pine Drive.

The document could clear the way for the future construction of a daycare facility on land currently owned by the town on the south side of Veterans Park.

In a special meeting on Dec. 4, aldermen voted unanimously to approve the document, which “lays out the parameters under which an agreement (between the town and Children and Friends Enrichment Center) could happen,” said town manager Matt Settlemyer. 

The Swannanoa Valley Children Care Council, Inc. is the governing board of the daycare center, which is currently located just west of the intersection of U.S. 70 and Blue Ridge Road. It's one of the few daycare facilities in the Swannanoa Valley.

In May, Children and Friends announced it would seek a grant in spring 2018 from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation, which awards millions of dollars annually to “high impact projects in the areas of housing, education, health care and human services,” according to its website (ncsecufoundation.org).

Children and Friends is seeking money to build a new facility that will allow it to nearly double its current capacity of 80 kids, according to the board’s chair, Linda Hobson. Earlier this year the organization’s board asked the town to consider allowing it to build a facility on the 10-acre piece of land on the south side of Veterans Park, which also includes the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden and the Grey Eagle Arena.

The town rezoned the property in June after seeking to expand the community garden. At the time, Settlemyer said the expansion was the “impetus for the potential rezoning.”

During that meeting the board of aldermen voted unanimously to rezone the land from TR-4 (town residential) to OI-6 (office and institutional). The move made the zoning designation of the south side of Veterans Park consistent with the north side's designation.

The board also voted to allow parks in all zoning designations during the June meeting. Several members of the public expressed concerns over the traffic issues that could result from additional traffic at the intersection of White Pine Drive and Blue Ridge Road.

Settlemyer said during the June meeting that concerns regarding traffic in the area were valid. He said a traffic study in the area is already underway. 

“That road really needs to be reviewed,” he said. “If you look at it in conjunction with the (future Interstate 40 interchange) that’s coming in and (Avadim Technologies) that’s coming out that way, there are a lot of changes coming to that portion of Blue Ridge Road that will impact White Pine Drive.”

The memorandum of understanding merely shows the town's support for discussions that could bring a daycare to the site. 

“These aren’t the final terms of an agreement,” Settlemyer said of the memorandum of understanding. "This is still very preliminary."

The agreement allows the board of Children and Friends to pursue the $1.8 million in grant money needed for the facility.

“Now that we have the memorandum of understanding our grant writer is writing,” Hobson said. “We plan to submit that in the early spring.”

From the daycare’s perspective, the site offers an optimal learning environment for the children it serves, Hobson said.

“It’s paradise for young children,” she said of the location. “There’s access to the greenways, the community garden, all of that area around there. The bank of the river is an ideal spot for earth science lessons.”

The potential for expansion not only allows Children and Friends to address the need for child care in the community - board member John DeWitt said there was a “crisis of need for quality child care” in Buncombe County in May. It also addresses the need to teach children about eating healthy food at a young age.

“We’ll have access to a garden, which will allow the kids to grow the food, cook with the food and have experiences with healthy food that a lot of kids that age don’t have,” Hobson said.

While the location where a facility could be built at 17 White Pine Drive has yet to be determined, Hobson is thankful that the town for the town's support. 

"We're profoundly grateful to the aldermen for their vision," she said. "Quality childcare is a real need in Black Mountain, and they're helping us address that by supporting this."

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