By Michael Howell
A Stevensville family that is hoping to open a child day care facility in a neighborhood zoned residential is being told they must obtain a conditional use permit by town officials. Victoria and Mark Adams don’t believe such a permit is required.
Victoria Adams spoke up during the public comment portion of the October 25 meeting since the issue was not placed on the Town Council’s agenda. Adams said she was speaking up because she wanted the community to know what was going on.
Adams told the council that she has been running a small day care for children in her home for the last eight years. She said that since her father-in-law died this past July they are considering moving the day care business into his home which they inherited. That house is located in a residential zone in town.
Adams stated that she is running a licensed residential daycare for six children and not a group daycare as defined by the regulations.
“I have a strong desire to continue to offer childcare services,” she said. She said it did not make sense to require her to pay a $400 conditional use permit fee or force her to move into the residence.
“If I move in and turn my craft room into a bedroom, who does it benefit?” she asked.
After investigating the issue, Town Planner Ben Longbottom wrote the Adams a letter stating that under the town’s development code establishing the day care business in a home which is not a residence would require obtaining a conditional use permit from the town. He stated that within the development codes the business would be defined as a group child care home and that such use would be prohibited in a residential zone.
Several people spoke in favor of the Adams’ proposal.
Beth Perkins, who uses the day care, said, “I don’t understand why you would want to hinder her.” She said that to disallow such a business would cause her to leave town.
Brad Pollman also spoke up, saying that the $400 fee was too much and that the town should be encouraging day care businesses which help everyone out. He said the meaning of a “private residence” was not defined in the law or in the codes.
Clayton Floyd noted that the zoning was designed to protect the rights of people in the neighborhood and here the neighbors were in agreement with the proposal.
Mayor Gene Mim Mack spoke to the process, saying that the Planner had made an administrative decision that the Adams are questioning. He said bringing the matter before the town council was premature. He said they could either apply for a conditional use permit or they could appeal this administrative decision to the Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustments. In that case, he said, they should simply write a letter explaining their view and asking the Board of Adjustments to review the Planner’s decision. He said there was no fee involved in such an appeal.
The Adams did subsequently submit a request for review by the Board of Adjustments and a meeting has been set for November 13 at 7 p.m.
The issue involves several legal definitions including the meaning of “residence”, “group child care”, “residential child care”, “day care facility”, and “family day care home”. It also involves the interpretation of state law that may trump any local codes. Mayor Mim Mack said that he hoped to have a legal opinion from the town’s attorney to present at the Board of Adjustments meeting. The Board of Adjustments consists of the Mayor and the Town Council.