The county’s economic development director said the plan to open a childcare center may be “dead in the water” due to a lack of required outdoor space.
Before he is ready to scrap the plan entirely, Patrick County Economic Development Director Sean Adkins asked the Patrick County Board of Supervisors to consider a partial road closure on Rye Cove Road to provide the required outdoor space needed for a childcare center.
Adkins told the board on Nov. 21 that the childcare center would be located in the basement of the Business Development Center (BDC), which is situated on the corner of Rye Cove Road and Slusher Street in Stuart.
Adkins said that space could serve as an outdoor playing area for children “instead of using it as a transportation space just to get the kids across the street.
“Just using that small portion of the road should actually be enough space to cover that 75-square-feet per child” requirement for the childcare center, “or at least get us a lot of closer to the number that we potentially didn’t think we were going to hit after that news,” Adkins said.
He previously asked Schools Superintendent Jason Wood about using the grassy plot behind the property that was purchased by the school division to house its administrative and other offices. However, since the school division had plans for the area, Adkins’ request was denied.
Adkins then asked the Patrick County School Board, which voted to continue with its plans for the area.
“Not to drop a guilt trip, but if we can’t do this part of it then unfortunately, we’re probably going to have to start over from scratch at a lower level,” Adkins said.
Lisa Price-Hughes, Resident Engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation, (VDOT), said the board would need to follow the process of holding a public hearing to seek public input, and publish its notice of intent to abandon the portion of road.
The board decided it will begin exploring the process for a road closure.
However, “the push forward with that does not mean it’s done, it just means we can proceed that way,” Adkins said.
The next day, Adkins said he isn’t confident about the process moving forward.
“The response that I got last night, I’m not even too sure we’re even going to go forward with even the process,” he said. “In reading the tea leaves, I don’t think the environment is there to go forward with that. I think the whole childcare part of this project is dead in the water.”
Adkins also isn’t sure that he will continue going forward with the road closure idea.
“I don’t want to waste any public dollars on advertising for public hearings when we’re looking at what appears to be a huge uphill battle in terms of support,” he said.
Funding was the reason the Economic Development Authority (EDA) chose to put the daycare center in the business center, Adkins said.
“Because they don’t need to come and do that in a building that’s not owned by the EDA or the county. So, it’s not like a matter of finding an empty building, because it’s got to be one that we own,” he said.
He noted the county has a dire need for childcare and believes the downstairs part of the center was the most logical place.
“We need it now,” Adkins said, and added that “when the hospital comes or when the brewery comes in, there’s going to be a small influx of people, which is just going to make the need for childcare worse.”
If the center is created, it could potentially accommodate up to 80 children, Adkins said.
He expects to hear news about a grant for the childcare center in December.
“It’s not going to look great if we get that award and essentially have to say ‘sorry, we can’t take it because we’re not putting a childcare center in,’” he said.