Albemarle Planning Commission considers day care expansions
Faced with an increasing demand for more child care slots in Albemarle, the county Planning Commission considered Tuesday two requests from day care facilities that sought to fill the need.
A request from the Four Seasons Learning Center in the county’s growth area was denied, but a request from Daylily Preschool in the rural area near Crozet was approved.
Staff had recommended against approval of Four Seasons’ requests to expand from 54 to 60 students.
“The applicant has requested an increase in students to help meet the demand of working families who already have children enrolled in the facility,” said county planner Christopher Perez.
The day care was originally built for office uses, but became a day care in 1974 when the Board of Supervisors approved an operation for a maximum of 32 children. It is located on Lakeview Drive, a cul-de-sac in the Four Seasons neighborhood.
A request to expand to 40 children was granted in 2002, but a subsequent request to expand to 64 was recommended for denial by the planning commission. The facility’s owners reduced their request to 54 and that was approved in March 2011 by the Board of Supervisors.
For this new request, the owners said they would ensure that the additional spots would only go to siblings of existing students, but staff argued there was no way for that to be enforced.
“It’s so when school closes for vacation, the siblings could come to the same place,” said Barbara Sliwinski. “It’s only for that reason.”
However, Perez said that condition would be unenforceable and that the additional number of students could eventually lead to an increase in traffic volume.
“Continued enlargement of the day care enrollment will create a use that is out of scale with this part of the Four Seasons development,” Perez said.
That was the sentiment of the lone neighbor who appeared at the public hearing.
“I’m opposed to the principle of continually returning to the various boards to request increases in the number of children,” said Martha Wood, who lives on Lakeview Drive.
However, one parent encouraged the commission to approve the request.
“I have two children enrolled at Four Seasons and one at public school,” said Courtney Watson. “Having more spaces will allow me to bring my school child [during school] vacations.”
The Commission voted 5-2 to recommend denial of the application.
“The facility is now scaled bigger than the cul-de-sac it’s on,” said Commissioner Don Franco. “It seems it’s becoming more of a neighborhood for the daycare than neighborhood for the residents and that gives me great concern.”
Commissioner Richard Randolph voted for the expansion.
“We’re really making it difficult for them to run a business,” Randolph said.
However, the commission voted unanimously to approve the expansion of the Daylily Preschool near Crozet.
“The proposal is to amend an existing special use permit to increase the maximum from ten children to 20,” said county planner Joanne Purtsezova.
The facility is located in the lower floor of Mountain Plain Baptist Church’s Sunday school, but is not affiliated with the church. The request is to allow operations on the upper floor.
However, their approval is contingent upon preschool enclosing a stairway linking the two floors and the installation of an integrated smoke detector. Another condition is that only five children younger than two and a half are allowed in the facility at any given time.
The preschool is also only certified by the Health Department to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“A preschool in Western Albemarle helps reduce the traffic from the Crozet area to Charlottesville,” said Elizabeth Claman, the director of Daylily Preschool.
Claman said the facility did not have any opposition from neighbors because they have none.
“We’re in the country,” Claman said.
Both requests will go before the Board of Supervisors later this year.