Amid concerns about a lack of openings in licensed in-home day cares, the Tooele City Planning Commission forwarded a positive recommendation for changes to city code to increase the number of children and providers permitted per day care.
The changes would allow in-home day cares to have one employee who doesn’t live in the home, which is currently prohibited. The change would also allow day cares and preschools with seven or less children to avoid the conditional use permit process, only requiring a business license and staff approval.
Day cares and preschools would be allowed to have up to 16 children, double the currently permitted eight, but would be required to receive a conditional use permit. A commercial, non-residential day care or preschool would be defined as any with 17 or more children. State law permits one day care provider to manage six to eight children.
Day cares with eight to 16 children would also be required to submit a traffic and parking plan and be located no closer than 300 feet to another child care business. The total number of children permitted under the maximum of 16 would include the licensee’s and employee’s children if they’re under care during business hours.
“We do have some examples in the city where they’re currently operating with 16 children as a home occupation,” Tooele City zoning administrator Andrew Aagard said. “We haven’t had any issues with them. They’ve been operating for years and doing quite well. We believe that 16 children can function.”
Aagard said the planning commission would retain some oversight over day cares with eight to 16 children, as the conditional use permit process allows for mitigating impact.
Commissioner Melanie Hammer said she was worried about the change in ordinance requiring in-home day cares be 300 feet apart and asked if there could be an exception for businesses on different streets. Aagard said the restriction was connected to other impacts beside traffic and parking, such as noise or littering, and recommended keeping it in place.
During a public hearing on the proposed code changes, two in-home day care providers spoke about their own experiences.
Terry Farnworth, who said she’s worked in corporate, home and private day care, said the change could help existing providers meet the need for the youngest children under their care. The state only permits each day care provider to take on two children under the age of 2, but Farnworth said there’s a lot of need in the community.
Farnworth said a second caregiver for an in-home daycare can also help if a child is having a difficult day.
“It’s just an extra security measure that would allow us to have more than one person, be able to accommodate more children and a bigger variety of age groups,” she said.
For Randi Gardiner, being the sole day care provider can make it difficult to find an opportunity to go to the bathroom and can make activities like lunch more stressful. While supportive of the option for second in-home care provider, she asked about language in the code that would count toward the total number of children she watches, as a mother of five. Gardiner asked if her older children, which don’t require direct supervision, would be counted toward the total, as the code includes any children under 14.
Aagard said the vague wording of the code could be interpreted to only mean children directly participating in the day care offerings, which could exclude older children also in the home at the time.
The Tooele City Council is expected to review the code changes at its next business meeting on Sept. 18 at 5 p.m., before a possible final vote in October.