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Nonprofit Spirit Cove plans animal-assisted therapy center near Kanuga

Amelia, a Newfoundland therapy dog, attended a meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Nov. 29. Amelia, a Newfoundland therapy dog, attended a meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Nov. 29.

Some adjacent landowners turned out Wednesday for a meeting of the Henderson County Zoning Board of Adjustment, which was scheduled to take up a request for a therapy center for veterans, first responders and medical personnel on land currently owned by owned by Kanuga Conferences Inc.

On the advice of County Attorney Russ Burrell, the zoning board postponed the hearing on a special-use permit to allow the therapy center based on a request from the applicant's attorney, Brian Gulden, for more time to present the case. It's rescheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the county building at 100 N. King St.

Kanuga plans to sell 16 acres of land on Evans Road to the nonprofit TimberKnolls Spirit Cove “to provide hope and healing to those who protect and care for others, including veterans, military families, firefighters, EMS workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and other essential heroes,” Kanuga Conference Center President/CEO Michael Sullivan said in a fact sheet made available to neighboring homeowners.

Based in Summerville, South Carolina, Spirit Cove operates programs nationwide that serve more than 40,000 clients each year.

“This work is consistent with Kanuga’s goal to serve as a place of healing and transformation for all people,” Sullivan said. “No other Kanuga parcels are planned for sale, and Kanuga has first right of refusal should TimberKnolls decide to sell in the future.”

Plans call for 15 Newfoundland dogs and four Gypsy Vanner horses to serve as therapy animals.

“Newfoundland are known as ‘gentle giants’ who have earned a reputation as patient helpers,” Sullivan said. “They have a natural ability to connect with those in need of healing and care, especially those suffering from illness or trauma.”

Spirit Cove and Kanuga have jointly applied for a special-use permit for a 4.76-acre parcel that would be home to the 4,000-square-foot one-story therapy center, which would be served by private well and septic. About an acre of pines would be removed to make room for the center if the county approves the plans.

On the remaining 11.24 acres of the 16-acre site the nonprofit corporation plans to build a six-acre pasture, a barn and homes for the organization’s founders and staff, Sullivan said.

“Newfies live with their owners at home and each home will have a fenced yard,” he said.

Sitework Studios, a land planning firm “noted for its reliance upon natural plants and minimal site disturbance,” has drawn plans consistent with Kanuga’s forestry stewardship plan, Sullivan said. “Buffers to roadways, consideration of the slope and preservation of site trees will be maximized for the buildings that are planned.”

A main driveway off Evans Road will serve as the entrance, he said, adding that the proposed use will not impact traffic on roads.

More than a dozen homeowners attended the meeting Wednesday with plans to express their opposition based on traffic and security. One of the homeowners said many more neighbors who were prepared opted to stay home when the news circulated that the hearing would be postponed.