Day care is under way

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The appearance of a day care inside a residential section of historic Summerville is bringing back the fight Summerville Neighborhood Association founders had in the organization's early years.

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Jose Sanchez (left) and Perry Noble, who both work for Kendrick Clearing, demolish a wall at Woodlawn Methodist Church at the corner of Walton Way and Milledge Road. Construction is under way to convert space into a day care, a project Summerville residents have opposed.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Jose Sanchez (left) and Perry Noble, who both work for Kendrick Clearing, demolish a wall at Woodlawn Methodist Church at the corner of Walton Way and Milledge Road. Construction is under way to convert space into a day care, a project Summerville residents have opposed.

Against the advice of their attorney and Planning and Zoning Director George Patty, Augusta commissioners voted 7-3 on Feb. 15 to allow a special zoning exception for Woodlawn United Methodist Church to open a child care center in the church, in a residential-zoned block at the busy corner of Walton Way and Milledge Road.

"It seems to me that this is a blatant violation of everything that I worked so very hard for for so very long," said Mary Louise Garren, a founding member of the neighborhood association who helped draw the historic district's boundaries. "You don't put a B1 zoning in an R1 zone."

Friday, Garren joined Summerville resident Harris Clay and the entire association in filing a lawsuit seeking to reverse the commission's decision and prevent Woodlawn from opening the child care center.

The effort is one Garren said she hasn't seen since the organization's early years, when members opposed efforts to zone spots in Summerville for commercial development nearly every month. Founded in 1976, the group helped draft a city-funded neighborhood plan, which now is incorporated into Augusta-Richmond County's comprehensive zoning ordinance and prohibits commercial development except in certain areas.

Despite opposition from the neighborhood association, the lawsuit and opposition by Augusta's Historic Preservation Commission, Woodlawn is moving forward with what it considers a Methodist ministry. Larry Wiggins, chair of the church's administrative council, said an existing playground site at the west end of the 2.6-acre lot will serve as recreation space for the children.

The plans have not damaged relations with Woodlawn's close neighbors, Church of the Good Shepherd and Episcopal Day School, Wiggins said.

Located in the same block, EDS, which educates 467 children from preschool to eighth grade, uses Woodlawn's parking lot as a holding space for carpooling parents, who line up in the 200-foot-long lot from Milledge to drop off and pick up students.

Wiggins, whose two nieces and granddaughter will attend the day care, said he doesn't think the day care will impact EDS' use of its parking lot because day care parents will not pick up their kids when EDS opens and closes.

THE METHODIST CHURCH'S desire to open a child care center began more than a year ago, when the Rev. Jim McCullough learned from a member that University Hospital was closing University Child Development Center, Wiggins said. He doesn't think what Woodlawn is doing is any different from what nearby Good Shepherd, Reid Memorial Presbyterian and numerous other churches do in caring for young children.

City Attorney Wayne Brown did, however, finding that Woodlawn's application did not meet the criteria for a school or church-based nursery that might be granted an exception to the zoning requirements. According to the state's definition, the proposal was for a day care, he said.

Ed Enoch, an attorney for Woodlawn, argued at the same packed commission meeting that Augusta was using definitions that were not in its own code, while commissioners voting to allow the special exception said they were reluctant to oppose the church.

Wiggins said Woodlawn had no plans to make money from the day care and could use any excess for missions.

No hearing on the plaintiff's request for an injunction has been held, and Wiggins said construction was ongoing to convert the educational building into a facility that can serve up to 107 children.

"They're working on the building as we speak," he said.

Woodlawn officials are seeking to transfer in the day care currently operated by University Hospital on its downtown campus. University has slated the center for closure May 20 because of the expense of upgrading the aging building.

University spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said all of University's playground equipment and other day care equipment has been donated to Woodlawn.

"This is a closed case as far as the hospital is concerned," Sylvester said.

Attorney Jack Long, who was raised in Summerville and lives nearby, is representing the plaintiffs. He said his chief concern is that the ruling will destroy the ability for neighborhoods to zone residential districts by allowing churches to do whatever they want just because they are churches.

Joe Neal, president of the neighborhood association and an attorney, said the association's board voted unanimously to join the lawsuit.

"Our neighborhood is like it is because we have resisted encroachments over the years," Neal said. "Just because it's a church that is asking for this, doesn't mean that the law doesn't apply for them."

Woodlawn History

Founded in 1892, Woodlawn United Methodist Church built a sanctuary in 1912 at the corner of Walton Way and 15th Street, where Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center sits today. In 1934, the church was destroyed by fire, and an exact copy of the Gothic-style church was rebuilt at the site. In the mid-1960s, the church property was sold to the federal government for construction of the VA facility. Church leaders proposed to move to an area near its congregation, so they used proceeds from the sale to buy available land at the corner of Walton Way and Milledge Road, where the current church was consecrated on May 5, 1968.

SOURCE: Larry Wiggins, chairman of Woodlawn United Methodist's administrative council

Comments (31) Add comment
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mike71345
75
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mike71345 03/09/11 - 01:34 am
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Since the Augusta Historic

Since the Augusta Historic Preservation Commission does not regulate the uses of historic properties (i.e., zoning), I wonder on what grounds their opposition rests.

SnakeCatcher
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SnakeCatcher 03/09/11 - 01:51 am
0
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No wonder very little good

No wonder very little good ever happens in Augusta, the old Hill crowd wants to treat a bunch of little children like they are leppers in the name of preventing change. This crowd does not want anyone in their neighborhood who thinks like a human being. God loves little children! It is great to see a church practicing what it preaches.

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 11:40 am
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UNBELIEVABLE!

UNBELIEVABLE!

corgimom
32209
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corgimom 03/09/11 - 11:57 am
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"Located in the same block,

"Located in the same block, EDS, which educates 467 children from preschool to eighth grade, uses Woodlawn's parking lot as a holding space for carpooling parents, who line up in the 200-foot-long lot from Milledge to drop off and pick up students."

I knew there was SOMETHING behind the protests.

And you wonder about the "Christians" that would object to small children going to a church-based day care.

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 12:20 pm
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In case you missed it, this a

In case you missed it, this a letter to the editor:

I am a nurse at University Hospital and a concerned parent of a 4-year-old who attends the University Child Development Center. Moving the development center to Woodlawn United Methodist Church is a blessing for those of us who have children at the center.
I know I speak for more than just myself when I say we are tired of being referred to as "those people" by the residents of Summerville, and as "urban sprawlers" by Augusta Commissioner Joe Bowles. I would like to educate the Summerville residents on just who "those people" are that they are referring to.
We are the doctors and nurses who save their lives every day. We are the technicians who make sure instruments are clean for their surgeries; pharmacists who make sure they get the correct medications; and administrators who work to keep University Hospital open every day. We are the lab technicians, X-ray personnel everyone in every capacity at University Hospital who provides a clean, safe environment for the whole community and "you people" in Summerville.
Right down to the housekeeping people who make sure the hospital rooms are cleaned and sanitized before you get admitted to it, we all work hard and strive to make University Hospital the best hospital for you to come to.
We are not asking the residents of Summerville to open a methadone clinic. It is a child learning center! The traffic issues were resolved, and there will be no alteration to the exterior of Woodlawn, besides adding a door. The residents will not even know the children are there.
All we are asking for is a nice, clean, safe learning environment for our children while we are working hard to provide a service for the community. Why is that too much to ask?
Kelli Atchison
Jackson, S.C.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 03/09/11 - 02:02 pm
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I understand everyone's

I understand everyone's reticence to oppose a church children's ministry but the fact remains this area is not zoned for this. No one is above the law,not even a church. Work on having the zoning changed and then build. This is the proper way to proceed.

Hatfield0278
1
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 02:46 pm
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This is a zoning issue.

This is a zoning issue. Summerville is a neighborhood. I wonder how those who are in favor of disregarding the zoning laws would feel if zoning laws in their neighborhood, or subdivision were discarded, and a daycare (serving 100 children) moved in next door to their home? Could I buy a foreclosed home in Jones Creek, West Lake, Pepperidge, National Hills or Laney Walker, apply for a zoning variance, and open a day care to serve the community? Zoning laws are in place to protect property owners and neighborhoods. If the courts don't overturn this then it will establish a dangerous precedent and no homeowner or neighborhood will be safe from non-residential development.

mike71345
75
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mike71345 03/09/11 - 02:52 pm
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How is it that the Methodist

How is it that the Methodist church and, presumably, the Episcopal Day School are zoned single-family residential? Does this mean large churches and elementary schools are allowed uses for my own single-family residential property?

mom of two boys
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mom of two boys 03/09/11 - 03:10 pm
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I live near this area and it

I live near this area and it is already very congested with cars and people walking across Walton Way and Milledge during the loop line times in the morning and afternoon. It is going to get worse. There is just no way around it. Also, it's not as if these parents have no where else nice to go. Curtis Baptist Day Care happily received many of these children and added a whole new 3 year old class as the UH day care closed.

Hatfield0278
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 03:37 pm
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From the Comprehensive Zoning

From the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance of Augusta Richmond County, GA:
Section 2-2 "Church" shall mean buildings and facilities owned or operated by a corporation, association, person, or persons for a social, educational, religious or recreational purpose, but not primarily for profit or to render a service which is customarily carried on as a business.

Section 2-3 "Day Care Center" shall mean any place operated by a person, society, agency, corporation, institution or group wherein are received for pay for group care, for fewer than 24 hours per day without transfer of legal custody 19 or more children under 18 years of age.

Section 2-9 "Parochial School" shall mean a facility that provides a curriculum of elementary and/or secondary academic instruction that is owned and operated by a religious institution.

rorodude
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rorodude 03/09/11 - 03:53 pm
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I live very close to the

I live very close to the church and I welcome it with open arms. I do not attend any services there either. Im pretty sure we all know what is driving all of this and it is not a "zoning" issue. I understand if a gas station is opening up, but this is 2 non-profit organizations that have worked together to better the community and not make it worse. It may even make the area safer. Plus, the traffic has always been here, and will continue long after we are gone. God Bless the folks at Woodlawn for what they are doing!

Hatfield0278
1
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 04:14 pm
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Rorodude: If it's not a

Rorodude: If it's not a "zoning" issue, then what do you believe is driving all of this?

neecee528
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 04:16 pm
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Mom of two boys, it is not

Mom of two boys, it is not just about sticking our children anywhere there is room. My son is 21 months not 3, so placement is a bit more difficult, not to mention costly (have you compared the prices? I have) It is also about the staff. These women have been raising and teaching children for 40 years. I doubt any other daycare can make such claims. These exceptional women will be out of a JOB!

Hatfield0278
1
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 04:28 pm
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I'm all for continuing what

I'm all for continuing what UH is doing, but why does it need to be in the middle of a neighborhood? There are plenty of vacant buildings that could be adapted for a day care that are in existing, compliant zones.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/09/11 - 04:31 pm
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Luckily most of our

Luckily most of our commissioners have the common sense to understand the difference between a child care center based in an existing church and a Wal-Mart super center. I can completely understand why the summerville residents would not want a free-for-all in terms of commercial development along Walton Way.. they don't want Washington Rd.. that's completely understandable.. but they should have the common sense to recognize the difference here.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 03/09/11 - 04:44 pm
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I also wonder how many

I also wonder how many Summerville residents teach piano lessons out of their single family dwellings? I know of a few who do. Well guess what, they are technically running a business out of their home.. and are in violation of the zoning laws.. lets shut those folks down. How many people in Summerville do Ebay, or any home based business where they earn a profit? Well they are a business.. and that's commercial.

Hatfield0278
1
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 04:49 pm
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Emerydan, I had the same

Emerydan, I had the same question and read most of AugRico's Zoning Ordinance. Those types of "businesses" are permitted from a home, as long as the resident applies for an SE, and a business license. They are not allowed to have any sign outside of their home, or to have any assistants (unless the business was grandfathered). Also, the SE can be revoked if the board deems that the business is having a detrimental effect on the neighborhood (traffic, noise, odor, etc...).

Hatfield0278
1
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 05:26 pm
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NeeCee - I don't know what

NeeCee - I don't know what Mr. Clay saw, or what he said. I don't know him either so I don't know what he believes. Do you know him?

I think it's dangerous to label people based on 4 words. I'm not willing to do that.

Whether or not race plays a role in the decision making process of people isn't something that can always be determined. Instead of judging others and their motives, I would rather err on the side of giving everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt.

Is it possible that the residents of Summerville could object to this daycare strictly out of concern for the neighborhood? Are we a community of law, or a community of convenience? The law is clear on this issue, and where there is any grey-area I think the residents of the affected neighborhood should have the final say as it is their property, home values, lifestyle that stand to be impacted the most.

mom of two boys
0
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mom of two boys 03/09/11 - 05:36 pm
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neecee528, nobody suggested

neecee528, nobody suggested you stick your kids just anywhere. By the way the Curtis Day care has many, many staff members that have been there for decades and care deeply about the children in their care. I do not have that age children anymore but if I did they would be at the Curtis Day Care. They added some kids in all the classes from the 1yr olds up to the 4K, not just 3K. I just know they added a whole new class to accommodate some of those UH preschoolers. Quality Childcare is for sure a hot button topic, let's try to not get all angry about people trying to help.

Hatfield0278
1
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Hatfield0278 03/09/11 - 05:44 pm
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So, were NeeCee's and

So, were NeeCee's and EmeryDan's comments (between my 3:49 and 4:26)pulled?

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 06:07 pm
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mom of two boys...what do you

mom of two boys...what do you purpose the employees do? And have you compared the costs?

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/10/11 - 01:54 pm
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deleted again....lets see if

deleted again....lets see if this one makes the cut...EDS operates a licensed daycare mon-fri from 6am to 6pm for pre kindergarten children. Check the state licensing website....they are listed. Why is what Woodlawn is doing any different?

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 07:11 pm
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why is any comment referring

why is any comment referring to race pulled? apparently someone higher up at the Chronicle lives in Summerville.

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 07:13 pm
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Tell you what Mom of two

Tell you what Mom of two boys...if Curtis will hire all the UHCDC staff, I will send my kid there.

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 07:15 pm
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for the record since

for the record since Hatfield's comment was not pulled...I NEVER labeled Mr. Clay as anything. NEVER!!!!

neecee528
0
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neecee528 03/09/11 - 07:25 pm
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Thank you! I felt like my

Thank you! I felt like my comments were tackful and on point. I didn't personally label or attack anyone, simply stated what was said. Its a matter of public record, not hearsay. Anyone who attended the Feb.15 commission meeting, as I did, heard those remarks (and many others).

corgimom
32209
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corgimom 03/09/11 - 11:22 pm
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If a large, well-run church

If a large, well-run church in my neighborhood- even right next door to me- wanted to operate a day care, that would be fine with me.

A church-based day care is a desirable attraction for any neighborhood to have, and would actually make those homes more attractive to families.

If the Summerville residents can handle EDS, they can handle Woodlawn, too.

Jesus loves the little children, remember?

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