Council approves daycare

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A proposal for a daycare on East Washington Street has received the green light from Suffolk City Council.

In a unanimous vote last Wednesday, council approved a conditional use permit for a daycare at 361 E. Washington St. The Planning Commission had given its unanimous recommendation for the daycare in December.

The 3,016-square-foot, two-story building that will house the daycare dates to the mid-1920s and is currently vacant, according to a staff report for the proposal. The daycare would be housed in the 2,152-square-foot first floor area and would serve children ages 16 months to 4 years old, operating from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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“I would like to provide a new service for children of working parents to stay during the day in a safe, learning and fun environment with quality caregivers,” said the daycare’s owner, Shamica Bullock. She said she has more than 10 years of experience in child care settings and has a degree in early childhood education.

The daycare would be allowed to enroll up to 30 children and it would employ eight staff members on a full- or part-time basis. It would share a parking lot with Metropolitan Baptist Church, whose pastor, Robert L. Hobbs, spoke during a public hearing in favor of the daycare. He said the church would do whatever it could to support the daycare.

“I believe it will be an asset to our community and to the other churches surrounding our church,” Hobbs said. “We are here … to show our approval, or our favor, for this being in our community.”

Marcus Williams, owner of Boogie’s Soul Food and Bullock’s father, said the building used to be a daycare that her son once attended.

“This is something that we need in the city of Suffolk, and I think it would be something great for the city of Suffolk, a daycare here that could help families and take care of children,” Williams said,

According to the staff report, the daycare would have two rooms for infants 16 months to 2 years old, and two classrooms for toddlers ages 2 to 4.

The daycare does not have a playground on site, but instead would use the Tynes Park city playground at 151 Tynes St., about 40 feet away. Bullock said at a public hearing before the commission that older children would use a walking rope to get from the daycare facility to the playground, while younger children would be pushed in a buggy.

Since daycares are regulated by the state, the city’s unified development ordinance does not require outdoor space for commercial daycare facilities.

As part of the conditions for operating the daycare, Bullock will have to either remove or encapsulate the lead paint in the building before it opens, and no food preparation is allowed without approval from the city’s Health Department.

Also, state approval from the Department of Social Services would be needed before the daycare could open.

Councilman Roger Fawcett said he was concerned about the fire code provisions with the number of children that could be in the roughly 100-year-old building.

David Hainley, director of planning and community development, said this is the first application step.

“It’s going to go through many more steps before she would have children in there,” Hainley said, “including fire marshal, building officials and everyone else that would inspect it along with state officials, determining the capacity between the fire marshal and the state officials based upon the number of children of different ages and the square footage that is assigned to each of those.”

Mayor Linda Johnson applauded Bullock’s effort in starting a daycare.

“I’d just like to say thank you for doing that,” Johnson said, directing her comments to Bullock. “I think it’s wonderful when young people want to start daycare centers because there’s a huge need everywhere in our city for this. And good daycare makes for happy parents.”