A daycare centre near Playmor Junction is hoping to add more childcare spaces but is facing opposition to its request for a zoning change.
The Brent Kennedy Learning Centre (BKLC) has been operating in the Slocan Valley for more than 20 years. It currently provides childcare for 76 kids with an additional 16 spaces opening next month.
The centre is hoping to add another eight to 12 spaces by expanding to a second location at 1051 Webb Rd. The property, located in Area I of the Regional District of Central Kootenay, was previously used as a Jehovah’s Witness hall and is zoned as residential. That’s where the problem arises.
BKLC administrator Susie Meyers had to apply to the RDCK to change the property’s zoning to institutional so a daycare could operate there.
Meyers said she expected things to go smoothly as a need for more childcare spaces in the Slocan Valley has already been identified, and the repurposing of an existing vacant building makes sense on many fronts.
The BKLC alone has turned away 25 families in recent months because of the lack of childcare spaces, she said.
“I was surprised at the level and intensity of opposition and [was] caught off guard,” says Meyers. “I expected friendliness and welcome to the idea of more childcare spaces for area residents.”
Several concerns were raised by area residents.
A first public hearing on the matter has been held, while a second meeting will be held in the coming weeks.
The zoning proposal was sent to property owners within 150 metres of the site. A petition with 33 signatures opposed to the proposed amendments was received by RDCK staff in response to the application.
Neighbourhood concerns included increased traffic in the area.
Meyers is responding to those concerns by assuring residents that because the maximum number of daycare spaces allowed at the property by Interior Health licensing regulations is between eight and 12, traffic increases would be minimal.
Meyers estimates the increase at between 16 to 24 car trips a day, with half in the morning and half in the afternoon.
She is also planning to post signs to remind traffic to slow down.
“Please keep in mind that daycare parents transport their children — their own precious cargo. Most are mindful to drive with due care and attention,” says Meyers.
There are 20 parking spaces on the property, more than sufficient for drop-off and pickup needs, she says.
Some residents say they “purchased property in the area specifically for the quiet residential character.”
The main concern, however, is around allowable uses for a property zoned as institutional. Residents are concerned that should the daycare cease to exist, an undesirable business could potentially move in.
Allowable institutional zoning uses include cemeteries, churches, community care facilities, community halls, convention facilities, daycare centres, educational facilities, group care facilities, historic interpretative facilities, hospitals, quasi-governmental offices, recycling depots and retreat centres.
To address those concerns, Meyers has now asked the RDCK to remove recycling depots, cemeteries and group homes from the list of allowable institutional uses at the site.
Meyers, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 22 years, says, “It’s about children and their families. My goal is to be thoughtful and kind and to provide services for children and their families.”