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New regulations could make ‘safe, monitored care less available,’ says daycare provider

POSTED June 27, 2009 5:19 p.m.
Turlock large family daycare providers turned out in full force for a special Planning Commission workshop on June 18 to discuss a set of harsher rules that could be imposed on new operators in town.
A proposed city ordinance would prevent new large family daycares from being sited within 300 feet of existing operators; require a minimum of two parking spaces for residents, one space for each assistant, and one space for loading and unloading of passengers; and allow city inspections at any time during regular business hours. Large family daycares would additionally be required to pay business license taxes, which would amount to approximately $60 per year.
Also, play areas would be required to be clearly delineated by fences, landscaping, or other materials constructed in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, and front yards could no longer be used as play areas.
According to numerous large family daycare providers in the audience, while existing providers are exempt from the ordinance these onerous new restrictions are likely to discourage future providers from opening up shop in Turlock.
“Burdensome and expensive zoning restrictions on family day care homes diminish the number of licensed providers and cause new providers to remain underground and unlicensed, thus making safe, monitored care less available to parents seeking care for their children,” said Joy Johnson, who has operated a large family daycare in Turlock for more than 20 years.
Stanislaus County already has a dearth of licensed child care slots, ranking second lowest among all counties in the state. There are only 21 active large family daycares in Turlock, offering only 294 slots for children as large family daycares can only care for a maximum of 14 children.
Providers were concerned that the new rules would create a competitive advantage for small family daycares — those with less than eight children — which operate under a different set of state regulations. The city is barred from imposing restrictions on small family daycares.
According to the city, the new restrictions were not devised to make it more difficult to do business but were instead intended to clarify and simplify the myriad rules governing large family daycares, while adding in a few additional restrictions to prevent any future problems with businesses, which exist in residential neighborhoods.
“We’re talking about education and transparency,” Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore said. “What we’ve had through the past several years are complaints that we don’t make everyone aware of all the regulations that apply to their businesses.”
The most contentious of the new restrictions — the restriction on new large family daycares within 300 feet of an existing operator and the requirement of additional parking spaces — could be circumvented under the new plan with the use of a Conditional Use Permit or permission from the Community Development Director, according to the city.
The planning commissioners expressed appreciation for the input on the proposed ordinance, and are expected to make some revisions before the final draft is adopted.
“I think we got a great education on the items that are of concern for you and some of the items that we obviously need to consider going forward,” said Planning Commission Vice Chair Jeanine Bean. “We obviously needed you here tonight to get a good feel for your concerns and the city’s concerns so we can move forward.”
The Planning Commission is expected to consider the final ordinance amendment at their Aug. 6 meeting.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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