Emerson tutoring center has permanent home

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After a second reading Monday, the Emerson City Council voted unanimously to remove the expiration of a conditional use permit for a tutoring center for dyslexic persons, essentially ending a year-long trial period and creating a permanent location for the Stellar Learning Center.

Tabitha Molina and her husband, Steve, bought a house at 54 Gaston Westbrook Ave. in Emerson two years ago, intending to establish a tutoring center for dyslexics. But in order to do that, they needed to get the zoning changed from residential (R) to neighborhood retail commercial (C-1).

However, the neighbors were totally opposed to the idea and voiced very loud opposition to Molina’s plans.

“There’s [the old Emerson Elementary School] right down the road that’s city-owned and full of empty classrooms,” one neighbor said, while others worried that the center might close at a later date and new owners might use the commercial zoning to attract businesses that might not have the welfare of the neighborhood in mind.

In the end, the council allowed Molina to proceed with her plans, although with certain conditions mainly restricting the hours of operation.

"I'm just happy that things ended so positively," Molina said. I think that those who opposed it have seen a lot of positive coming out of there."

Dyslexia, a reading disorder, affects about 45 million Americans, according to the American Dyslexia Association. 

It is characterized by difficulty reading — despite normal intelligence — spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, sounding out words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads.

"I am excited that we can move forward with my dream to help children with dyslexia," she said. "I am hoping to establish a nonprofit and potentially open another location so we can reach more kids and provide adult services as well."