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Planners approve move to relax day care rules

Charlottesville planners have recommended the city adopt zoning changes to make it easier for certain child care facilities to operate.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended City Council approve the changes during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

In July, the commission directed staff to draft a zoning amendment to allow family day homes and day care facilities by-right in all zoning designations and exempt them from off-street parking requirements.

Family day homes fall under residential uses and are regulated based on the number of children that they serve. A home serving one to five children is allowed by-right in residential and business districts. A home serving six to 12 children is allowed by-right in business districts, but requires a special-use permit in all but high-density residential zoning.

Day care facilities serve 13 or more children and are allowed by-right in business districts, but require a special-use permit in all but high-density residential zoning.

Commissioner Lyle Solla-Yates brought forth the proposal to address the potential need for childcare as people are returning to the office amid the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, however, schools are still holding either partial or total online classes.

Meanwhile, some day care facilities have reopened, but with reduced capacity to increase safety measures, leading to a shortage in availability.

The city’s regulations don’t line up with state requirements for childcare facilities, which kick in at five children.

Family day homes require one off-street parking space per employee who doesn’t live in the home on top of parking regulations required for the zoning designation. For a day care, one space is required per 1.5 employees.

Under the revisions, a family day home serving up to four children would be allowed in all zoning districts allowing residential uses. Facilities serving five to 12 children would require a provisional-use permit.

Provisional-use permits are less onerous than special-use permits and can be approved administratively.

The permit would limit hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but only 12 hours within each 24-hour period.

Deputy Planning Director Missy Creasy said staff recommended the larger facilities obtain a permit so neighbors could be notified and safety measures could be enforced.

“It’s an added item to a neighborhood so trying to be conscious of allowing it as well as having some parameters for the community is pretty important,” she said.

Applicants for the provisional-use permit must provide a valid city business license and a state license. Applicants must also provide a traffic safety plan addressing drop-off and pick-up procedures. Only one person who does not live at the residence can assist in the business.

One exterior sign is allowed, but it cannot be lighted and must be no larger than two square feet.

Councilor Lloyd Snook asked what measures were available for night-shift workers. Creasy said staff believes facilities serving less than five children will be used by those workers.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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