Washing small towels and toys, playing guitars and picking up milk, parents contribute to the Chapel Hill Cooperative Preschool with more than tuition.
CHCP is a nonprofit child care center that supports children as they learn and grow through play. It has two locations: the preschool site that serves children ages 2 to 5 years and the infant/toddler site.
The preschool submitted a new site plan to the Town of Chapel Hill in 2017 to consolidate the two locations, but it's faced a lot of bumps along the way.
Aaron Bachenheimer, vice chairperson of CHCP’s board, said owning one facility is compatible with the school’s development.
“For many years, we’ve thought about having one facility that we own,” he said. “We started looking at the sustainability of paying rent in two locations and having two separate staffs and then looking at the goals and the things we want to accomplish as a school.”
He said the school’s goals are to provide more scholarships to support families and to continue to provide adequate wages and benefits to its teachers.
The school purchased a property on Mt. Carmel Church Road and hired an architecture firm, a civil engineering firm and a contractor to build the school.
Propositions for the new site were brought before the Community Design Commission on Feb. 26 of this year.
“I like the architecture; I think it’s playful and very appropriate for little kids, like the attention to where windows are — I've designed some preschools and Montessori schools and things — those are the kinds of things that kids really appreciate, and I like the use of colors as an information system for the buildings, for the kids,” commissioner Lucy Davis said.
Commissioner Polly Van de Velde also recognized the elevations and the kid-friendly design of the site.
Some neighbors have expressed concerns about the traffic in the area due to the new preschool and whether the building would fit in the neighborhood.
Kay Pearlstein, senior planner for the Town, said in a letter that the N.C. Department of Transportation had reviewed traffic circulation and impact, and that the commission had received appropriate information to review the traffic concerns.
The commission unanimously voted that the proposed alternative buffers — vegetation to prevent soil erosion around a structure — be revised to specific plant material and changed fencing.
“It’s sort of the last piece of the puzzle for them in regards to the CDC’s approval, which is an important step of the process,” Adam Nicholson, a senior planner for the Town, said.
In May 2018 the commission denied the preschool's request for an extended planning approval, but the Town Board of Adjustment overruled that decision.
Some neighbors filed a petition, requesting review of the board's decision to extend the site approval plan by six months, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos said in an email.
“The neighbors have made several attempts to block this project,” Bachenheimer said. “We are confident that the challenges to our Site Plan are without merit, and we continue to be disappointed by these truly harmful efforts to block and delay our progress toward building a beautiful new preschool site for educating young children in this community.”
Bachenheimer said CHCP will continue to provide an excellent education after the new preschool site is built.
“It’s had its challenges along the way,” Bechenheimer said. “I think not unlike any building projects in the community, there’s always bumps in the road, so we’ve gone through the process.”
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