More than 100 protest proposed child care center

No local need for facility, opponents tell meeting

April 14, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

More than 100 people attended a Board of Appeals meeting last night to protest a proposed child-care center that would, if approved, be one of the largest in Howard County.

The Florida-based Tutor Time Learning Systems Inc. wants to build a 10,466-square-foot facility on 2 1/2 acres at the northwest corner of Old Frederick Road and Rogers Avenue in Ellicott City. The center would have two outdoor play areas and would hold up to 200 children.

The county Planning Board voted unanimously in October to recommend rejection of the plan. The February appeals board hearing was postponed because space was not sufficient to handle about 150 residents who showed up to testify.

The proposed site is in the Hollifield Station neighborhood, whose residents say there are not enough children to supply most of the center's enrollment.

They said that factor could lead to increased traffic as outsiders bring their children to the facility and could endanger neighborhood kids, most of whom walk to school.

Andrea Marcoux, a district manager for Tutor Time, testified last night that the proposed center's size is average for the company. Most of the 200 Tutor Time centers in the United States are in residential areas, she said.

She said that traffic into and out of the centers generally occur from 6: 30 a.m. to 9: 30 a.m. for drop-off and 3: 30 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m. for pickup.

Marcoux said she has visited about half of the company's centers and never noticed traffic congestion. The statement sparked laughter from the audience, many of whom wore orange stickers to show their opposition to the proposal.

Marcoux told the board that she had "absolutely" no reason to believe that the center would adversely affect the neighborhood.

Board member Robert C. Sharps asked why Tutor Time needed a 200-child facility.

"The demand is out there," Marcoux answered. "Child-care in Howard County is at a crisis level."

Dave Mister, attorney for Hollifield Station Community Association, suggested that the "dire need" was for infant care.

Tutor Time's average center has space for only six infants, he said.

"Child-care centers do not have to prove need" in order to be approved, said Tutor Time's attorney, Thomas Meachum.

Two hours into the meeting, none of the residents had testified yet.

Board members expected that another hearing would have to be scheduled, likely in June.

Linda Dombrowski, a member of Hollifield Station Community Association's steering committee, said she looked forward to the chance to "rebut some of the arguments and statements being made" by Tutor Time.

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