Pulaski Town Council: Calfee project moves forward; zoning amendments approved

Pulaski Town Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to move forward on securing grant funds for the Calfee Training School Adaptive Reuse Project.

Council also approved a requested zoning amendment for the new owners of Memorial Square Shopping Center, as well as a special exception for the construction of apartments on the first and second floors of property at 37 West Main Street in downtown Pulaski.

With approval of a proposed resolution, the town will apply for $1.5 million in grant funds through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program for the Calfee project.

The CDBG grant, if approved, will provide 35 percent of the funding needed to complete the Calfee Community & Cultural Center planned for at the former Calfee Training School in Pulaski.

The Calfee project will re-purpose the Jim Crow-era African American school into a community and cultural center to include a childcare center that will serve 97 children, a commercial kitchen, a digital learning lab to support workforce development, a museum to highlight local Appalachian African American leaders and history, an event space for community, cultural and educational programming, and small business incubation and meeting spaces.

The CDBG funding is being sought to complete the renovation of the Lucy and Chauncey Harmon Learning Center and the Dorothy DeBerry Venable Digital Learning Lab.

The Town of Pulaski will oversee the center’s renovation after which the Town’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority will transfer ownership of the property to the center’s board of directors.

According to Jill Williams, Executive Director of the Center, local employers report that it is difficult to fill jobs, in part because of a lack of reliable childcare options locally.

“Indeed, Pulaski County only has licensed childcare slots for 8.5 percent of preschool aged children leaving nearly 1,500 children without care,” Williams said. “The COVID19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for flexible out-of-school care options for older children, allowing parents to work while their children are in safe environments equipped to manage virtual learning while social distancing and other health-related guidelines are met.

“With a higher-than-average poverty rate of 24.7 percent, the Town of Pulaski is also challenged with regard to food security and access to healthy foods. And the county’s farmers are struggling to bring in enough revenue to make ends meet. The combined childcare center, computer lab, commercial kitchen, and adjacent event space at the Calfee Community & Cultural Center will address all of these challenges while also leveraging cultural resources and building local capacity to take on future challenges.”

Also Tuesday, council approved a zoning amendment to expand the possible uses for the Memorial Square Shopping Center.

Kevin Conner, representing Pulaski Development, LLC and its owner, David Hagan, said the company seeks to expand the possibilities of use on the property and increase the likelihood of attracting long-term viable tenants.

The property’s present zoning designation is B-1 Limited Business, and Pulaski Development requested to add wording to allow for light industrial uses, cottage industry, custom manufacturing, greenhouse or nursery, industry type 1, packaging and warehouse as special exceptions to the zoning designation.

Brady Deal, a planner and economic developer for the Town of Pulaski said that even if the zoning amendment is recommended by the Planning Commission and adopted by town council, Pulaski Development would still have to apply for a special exception and come back before the planning commission and council for public hearings.

“We’re just trying to fish with a broader net,” Conner stated.

Council also approved a request for special exception from Luke Allison of Aggregate Capital, LLC and 37 West Main, LLC that will allow them to construct apartments on the first and second floor of the former pawn shop property at 37 West Main in downtown Pulaski.

Seven apartments would be constructed on the second floor, and three on the first floor on the Peak Creek side of the building.

In other news, council heard a presentation from Ryan Hendrix of the Peppers Ferry Regional Wastewater Treatment Authority on their rate structure.

The authority provides wastewater treatment services to the Town of Pulaski, Town of Dublin, Pulaski County PSA, the Fairlawn Sewer Authority, Montgomery County PSA and the City of Radford.

Also, council approved the appointment of Todd Bruce of Seagle Funeral Home to the town’s Cemetery Board of Trustees, and appointed Tom Hager as Building Official.

Only four members of council were present for Tuesday’s meeting, which was presided over by Vice Mayor Brooks Dawson.

Dawson said Mayor Shannon Collins was out of town on vacation, while councilman Greg East was ill and unable to attend the meeting. Also, councilman Tyler Clontz was absent due to the birth of he and his wife’s second child.