RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An expansion of Ms. Bab's Nursery school is one step closer to reality after a Planning Commission vote on Wednesday.
The move wouldn't take the Ms. Bab's Nursery school community far after owner Joe Cafarella purchased a property in the 2300 block of Grove Avenue.
"Knowing this is right across the street and we could expand and keep our quality, it was something I was willing to do," said Cafarella. "It would complete the entire school."
The nursery school has spent more than a decade in The Fan, educating and caring for children from 3 months old to 5 years old.
"It's about the children, and you can tell it's the most selfless individuals that are in that school," said Cafarella.
His mother Bab's is the founder, and the school is her namesake, for their family. Ms. Bab's has become a staple in The Fan for hundreds of families who have come in and out of their doors throughout the years.
Cafarella says through canvassing, he's found many neighbors fully support the expansion, and conversion of an additional building, but the Fan District Association has openly opposed the expansion.
In a letter, the Fan District Association wrote: "While we value Ms. Bab's and supported your prior expansion in 2014, the conversion of a residential dwelling to a commercial undertaking, no matter how wonderful or viable the venture, always gives the FDA pause."
The letter, from September, also states that neighbors were overwhelmingly against the expansion. In response to that, Cafarella says he held open houses of the school, hoping those against the expansion, would be open to learning more about the school, and see what he is hoping to do with the new space.
"I am trying to create an environment in The Fan that it not only attracts families to live in it, but retains them," said Cafarella.
At a city Planning Commission meeting Wednesday, more than a dozen families showed their support for the expansion, speaking about what Ms. Bab's has meant to their families and the neighborhood.
Ms. Bab's has done loading, unloading and parking studies of the area, hoping reassure neighbors that traffic and parking will not be impacted negatively. The school also has plans to contract private trash services to pick up, in addition to the city trash services they already utilize.
Representatives with the Fan District Association and longtime residents say their main concern is the precedent that would be set, by approving the change in zoning for Ms. Bab's, allowing it to be used for commercial use.
After about two hours of discussion, the Planning Commission voted 7-1 to approve the special use permit for Ms. Bab's. The final decision will come from City Council on Jan. 8.
"No one's job is easy throughout the whole entire process. I think people have been set up to look in opposition of each other, but really everyone is trying to get the best Fan possible," explained Cafarella. "So regardless of this outcome, everyone is trying to get the best Fan neighborhood."
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