County panel to consider easing day care rules Changes would apply to neighborhood centers

July 01, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Responding to a perceived shortage of child care in some areas of the county, the Baltimore County Planning Board will consider zoning changes making it easier to establish day care centers in residential neighborhoods.

Currently, a group center with nine or more children must have at least an acre of land in a residential neighborhood, unless the center is operated from a church or school or another institution.

The changes being considered would allow a group center handling between nine and 20 children to operate from the owner's home with less acreage, provided the owner obtains a permit from the county.

"We feel the legislation will offer a fairer way to calculate the spaces that might be needed," said Kathy Mays, coordinator for Children's Services, a county resource and referral agency for child care issues.

But the Baltimore County Family Child Care Association, which represents family child care providers, questioned the need for more group centers, saying slots go unfilled.

"There are a lot of us out here, and a lot of us are not full," said Cara Bethke, the group's legislative representative.

In Baltimore County, more than 300 group child care centers operate at churches, schools and other institutions; another 1,600 are based in private homes.

The legislation was prompted by a County Council resolution introduced last year by Perry Hall Democrat Vincent J. Gardina, after a constituent with less than an acre of land was denied

permission to expand a day care operation.

Gardina said he asked the Planning Board to look at the zoning regulations "to see if there should be some middle ground. "

Planners say the 29,777 licensed child care slots in the county are probably adequate to meet the demand, though some neighborhoods might need child care. The planners also say a shortage of infant and toddler care exists countywide.

A family child care home with eight children or fewer is permitted to operate in all zones so long as a child care provider is not next door. But a group center with nine or more children is required to have an acre of land, as well as fences and other buffers to distance the facility from surrounding houses.

Under the proposed regulations, a center with nine to 12 children could operate on as little as a quarter-acre, and a center with 13 to 20 children could operate on as little as a half-acre in a townhouse neighborhood.

More land would be required in neighborhoods of single family homes.

Another provision in the proposed legislation would allow a child care provider to establish a center for eight or fewer infants and toddlers.

A group child care center could not be located in a residential neighborhood within a half-mile of an existing center.

Neighbors concerned about a new center could demand a public hearing.

The legislation is scheduled to be introduced to the county Planning Board July 9.

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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