City Planners Support Child Care Ordinance –

By David Slone

WARSAW – A daycare ordinance aimed at making it easier for child care providers to offer their services in the city of Warsaw will go before the Common Council after the Plan Commission unanimously recommended it Monday, June 13.

The City Council will have to have two readings on the ordinance, including a public hearing before it becomes part of the city code. 

In presenting the daycare ordinance, City Planner Justin Taylor told the Plan Commission it is an adjustment to permitted uses for the city’s zoning ordinance. 

“The city is addressing barriers for residents related to child care. A committee was formed to engage with child care providers to see what specific obstacles prevent them from fulfilling their mission. Practical difficulties related to the permissiveness of the city’s municipal code were noted during these discussions,” Taylor said.

A daycare center currently needs a use variance to locate within a Residential-1, Commercial-2, C-3, C-4 or C-5 zoning district and a special exception to locate within an R-2 or R-3 zoning district. 

“So, regardless of the zoning district, those wishing to open a daycare center are required to receive approval through the Board of Zoning Appeals,” he said. “With the current conditions of the real estate market, child care providers face two alternatives: A. The desired property is purchased before they can apply for a variance or B. They purchase a property potentially risking thousands of dollars if their variance is denied.”

The child care committee recommended the amendment to the city’s municipal code which would make daycare centers permitted by right in R-3 and C-2 zoning districts. 

“Those wishing to operate within the city still need to fulfill all applicable state regulations and local requirements for parking, square footage and square footage minimums related to how many children they watch,” Taylor said. 

He said the hope is that the change will create more certainty for daycare centers and a lot more will open in the community because it’s “definitely a much-needed amenity for our residents.” 

Diane Quance, Commission and Council member, asked Taylor to review what kind of dwellings are permitted in R-1, R-2 and R-3. Taylor said R-1 is single-family homes on larger lots; R-2 is more dense; and R-3 is like one would find on Center Street with housing that is more closer together. 

He said the commercial districts are similar but “gets heavier as you go into the bigger C districts.” 

Quance asked what kind of neighborhood would one find single-family homes mixed in with apartments and duplexes. Taylor said that starts with R-2. 

Commission Vice President Rick Keeven said his street is R-3. If a daycare came in there, he asked if parking would be put in the front yard.

“So, they would still have to adhere to the requirements that the city has for screening,” Taylor said. The daycare center couldn’t pave the entire lot, he said, as there’s a maximum coverage allowed for paving. 

Keeven asked if the fencing for the child play area for a daycare had to be in the front, back or side. Because of city ordinances, Taylor said the fencing could not be in the front since only low, decorative fencing is allowed there. 

Commission and Council member Jeff Grose asked if there’s a common type of commercial activity in an R-3 that the city currently has. Taylor said that depends where one is at, but used Center Street as an example of R-3. He said home occupation businesses are in R-3 districts, but there’s generally not a lot of commercial in an R-3. Offices generally blend into that type of environment. 

Quance asked why a fence height for daycare facilities was not in the ordinance amendment because previously neighbors to a daycare facility wanted an 8-foot fence around the play around. 

“Our fence ordinance limits the height of fences to 6 already, for residential districts, so that would be not in line with our current residential district aesthetic. We could definitely discuss that if you decided it could be added to the special exceptions,” Taylor said. “I think it would do more harm than good to require that. I think it would be out of character with those existing homes.”

Grose said Lincoln Elementary School was considering a 6- to 8-foot fence and he asked them to seriously reconsider that because it’s a neighborhood school. He said a fence that high would not look friendly or right. 

“I don’t know that I would want an 8-foot fence near my home,” Grose said, adding that people have different opinions on how high their neighbors’ fencing should be.

“One thing to consider, too, is that home daycare can have approximately the same amount of kids that you’ll see in one of these smaller home-based centers already,” Taylor said. “So if somebody lives in a house, if they have a helper with them, they can have up to 16 kids already.”

He said with the size of these lots and houses, there probably won’t be more than that in some of these home-based centers. The state has put most of the rules in place for daycare centers. 

Plan Commission member Jim Gast said he had no objection to the ordinance as it sounded pretty logical to him. 

City engineer Aaron Ott made a motion to recommend to the City Council that the ordinance be approved, and Gast seconded his motion. It was approved 8-0, with member Dan Stevens absent.  

In other business, the Commission heard a petition by Judy Heiman for a preliminary and final replat at 1509 Ranch Road. 

Taylor told the Commission the preliminary and final plat for the Heiman subdivision meets the development standards for a subdivision within an R-1 zoning district. Heiman is proposing to subdivide a 2-acre tract of land into two lots. Lot 1 will be a 1.6-acre lot with an existing residence, and lot 2 will be a 0.4-acre lot with an existing accessory structure. There will be a 15-foot strip of land that extends from lot 2 to the east to a parcel that Heiman currently owns that will connect those two parcels, Taylor said. 

“They just wanted that for access to their accessory structure,” he said, recommending the Plan Commission approve the preliminary and final plat, which they did. There were no remonstrators. 

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