Testifying that the increased traffic in their neighborhood could be dangerous, Ellicott City residents asked the Board of Appeals last night to reject a proposed child care center that would be one of the largest in Howard County.
About 100 people who live near the proposed site attended the meeting to oppose the center. They argued that the extra motorists entering and exiting the community would pose a danger to neighborhood children walking to Hollifield Station Elementary School.
Florida-based Tutor Time Learning Systems Inc. has asked for permission 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, in the Hollifield Station neighborhood. The center would have two outdoor play areas and space for up to 200 children.
The county Planning Board voted unanimously in October to recommend rejection of the plan.
At 9 last night, residents were still waiting to testify. The Board of Appeals was not expected to vote on the issue yesterday. Its next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Andrea Marcoux, a district manager for Tutor Time, testified during a hearing in April 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.
Marcoux said she has visited about half the company's centers and never noticed traffic congestion. She told the board that she had no reason to believe that the center would adversely affect the neighborhood.
But residents said last night that a large day care center would pose a problem because the neighborhood is designed to enable children to walk to school. A shortage of parking spaces at the school prompts people to park on Patapsco Valley Drive, making travel in and out of the community difficult, they added.
"I believe additional traffic from a large day care center will stress an already [difficult] traffic situation," said Sharon Mayr, a Hollifield Station Elementary School PTA member who does not live in the neighborhood.
James A. Olson, who lives near the proposed day care site, said he worries about the safety of children and parents who would cross the facility's driveway en route to school.
"My 7-year-old would cross this driveway two times a day; my wife and 2-year-old would cross this driveway four times a day ... during potentially busy dropoff and pickup times at the center," he said.
Because the center wouldn't have an entrance from nearby Route 99, customers would have to drive through the community to reach the center, Olson added.
Morag Weedlun, a mother of three who lives three-quarters of a mile from the proposed site, said many people moved to Hollifield Station because their children could walk to school. She said parents are discouraged from driving pupils to class.
The developer, school board and county Department of Planning and Zoning "all agreed that this was to be a pedestrian-friendly community," Weedlun said.
"The traffic associated with this project is not suited to our neighborhood," Weedlun said, earning applause from residents.
Tutor Time's attorney, Thomas Meachum, asked Weedlun whether her children could take a different route to school to avoid cars heading to and from the day care center.
She said they could.