KARE eyes new location to expand counseling in fight against child abuse

Feb. 22—The site of a former assisted living group home near Waynesville Middle School could become the new home for KARE, a nonprofit that combatting child abuse in Haywood County.

KARE, which stands for Kids Advocacy Resource Effort, provides services and support to 200 to 300 children a year who are victims of abuse and neglect, as well as family outreach and caregiver education. The nonprofit wants to expand its capacity to offer more counseling services, but doesn't have enough space at its current location to do so.

Enter the former assisted living facility known as Creekside Villas on Boyd Avenue in Waynesville. The 10-bedroom group home, licensed to care for a total of 20 residents, dates to the early 1970s. It was operated by Haywood Lodge, but the group home closed in late 2021 and has been on the market since then.

The building would be a perfect fit for KARE's new home, allowing ample space for counseling in a home-like environment that would put children and families at ease.

But there was a catch. Zoning restrictions prohibited non-residential uses of the property. The one-acre corner lot abuts a residential neighborhood, although Waynesville Middle School is a stone's throw away.

When the issue came before the Waynesville planning board last month, discussion centered on whether opening the door for non-residential uses would impact the surrounding neighborhood. Aaron Crawford, representing Haywood Lodge, told the planning board that finding a buyer who wanted to keep the building a residential facility has been difficult.

Planning board members debated whether to change the zoning to allow non-residential uses, and more specifically, what type of uses. The board felt commercial operations — from retail and restaurants to hair salons and dance studios — would be too intrusive to the neighborhood.

However, the planning board unanimously concluded that professional offices would be acceptable. This zoning change would work for KARE, which is categorized as a professional counseling service.

The issue then came before the Waynesville town board last week, which also unanimously voted in favor of the zoning change.

KARE is currently located on the Old Asheville Highway, past the Waynesville Fire Station and roughly across the street from the old hospital. Its current building is 3,000 square feet, while the former assisted living facility is 6,000 square feet.