FEBRUARY 19, 2020
Acting Chairman Paul Showalter called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Commission members Robert Busler, Morgan Ellis, John Hutchison and Jane Richman, Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mr. Showalter stated that the first item of business is to nominate a Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary for 2020. After a short discussion, Mr. Busler moved to nominate Jeff Grotsky as Chair, Morgan Ellis as Vice-Chair and Jane Richman as Secretary, was seconded by Mr. Hutchison and carried unanimously.
MINUTES OF PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING
Mr. Showalter asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Planning Commission meeting of November 20, 2019. Mr. Busler moved to approve the minutes as presented, was seconded by Ms. Richman and carried unanimously.
861 WASHINGTON AVENUE – CONDITIONAL USE RECOMMENDATION – DAY CARE
Mr. de Mooy stated that this application, if approved by the Planning Commission, was going to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a conditional use approval to run a daycare at the former Towne Stationers Building located at 861 Washington Avenue and zoned C-1 General Commercial. He said that this was before the Planning Commission to determine if the daycare was appropriately located but no formal vote would be taken on the site plan. A daycare facility anywhere in Chestertown is a conditional use.
Ms. Karen Lee, daycare provider, stated that she was preparing to open a non-traditional daycare with hours from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week. She said that she was hoping to be permitted a total of up to 60 children, including 9 infants. Ms. Lee stated that a teacher was required for every 3 infants and said that there will be 6 teachers for the first infant stage (0-24 months) and a total of 15 teachers for the others. The teacher-to-child ratio was broken down in a diagram as part of the submittal.
Ms. Lee stated that parking was adjacent to the building and the daycare location would be located at the former Towne Stationers space. She said that the staff would park closer to the shopping center area in an order to secure the safety of the children and parents by providing direct ingress and egress. There would be a double door with a vestibule installed at the front of the building, which would remain locked for security, with dual control for both in and out.
Ms. Lee stated that she has been providing daycare for the last 34 years in Randallstown, Owings Mills and Arbutus. Ms. Lee stated that she and her family relocated to Chestertown in August 2019.
Ms. Lee stated that her day care would provide wrap-around services designed to help all the children and families who use the facility.
Ms. Lee stated that the playground area will have a 6’ privacy fence around it with no access from outside. You can only enter and leave the play area through the building.
Mr. Showalter asked how the ages were broken down for the ratio of teacher to child. Ms. Lee stated that an infant is considered up to 24 months of age but her groups are broken down by children 6 weeks to 11 months, 11 months to 18 months, and then 18 months to 24 months.
Mr. Busler asked if there are similar childcare centers available in Kent County. Ms. Lee stated that she thought she would be the only childcare in Chestertown with the hours she was offering.
Mr. Busler asked who would review that the daycare met all requirements for the State. Ms. Lee stated that a State representative from Childcare Administration would make sure that all requirements are met and that her licenses were in place.
Ms. Lee stated that there will be three (3) shifts for workers and at least 18 part-time employees with scattered shifts. She said that there would not be a time when 60 children were in place at once due to the scattering of the times of operation.
Mr. Busler stated that he was in favor of this because it was needed in the community. Ms. Lee stated that she was happy to also be offering employment opportunities in addition to serving a need.
Ms. Ellis suggested that Ms. Lee meet with Dixon Valve to see if she could address their need for childcare as many of those employees are shift workers. Ms. Lee stated that she has been working with the Kent County Economic Development Office and was told to go through the preliminary application steps before anything else. She said that a vague email was sent out about the daycare and over 100 inquiries were received as to when they might open. Ms. Lee stated that daycare was a real need in the community.
Ms. Lee stated that she hoped to open the business in June so that parents were not changing programs during the school year. She said that once the permits are in order she will begin to advertise and have a Facebook page.
Mr. Showalter asked what would be in the play area. Ms. Lee stated that a commercial playground would be installed with partitions for different age groups, benches, an infant play space, and a 2-year and above play area. There will be push toys and other age-appropriate toys. She said that the kids will also be broken up by their age groups for different outside play times.
Mr. Fortunato, owner of the building, was present for the application and said that he was in support of the plan for daycare.
Mr. Hutchison asked if there would be additional lighting required for the site. Ms. Lee stated that there was existing lighting on site which was not in use because the building was currently vacant. She said that she aimed to install additional security lighting. Mr. Fortunato stated that he planned to install another light in the parking lot as well, to provide extra lighting for the area.
Ms. Richman asked if drop-ins would be accepted at the daycare. Ms. Lee stated that she would do no less than 3 days per child as a “drop-in” takes away an allotted space. She said that for certain events, like a movie night, or around holiday times she may offer drop-in times so parents can shop for a couple hours.
Ms. Lee stated that some of the childcare may only be weekend care for people working nursing shifts or people on split shifts on weekends. Mr. Hutchison asked how many shifts there would be for employees. Ms. Lee stated that there would be 3 shifts in total, and the employees would stagger according to the number of children in attendance at that time, adding that the teacher to child ratio always had to be met.
The consensus of the application was that this was a needed service in Chestertown and Kent County. Mr. Busler moved to strongly recommend a positive recommendation for the daycare as proposed at 861 Washington Avenue to the Zoning Board of Appeals, as this was a need in the community, was seconded by Mr. Hutchison and carried unanimously.
2019 ANNUAL REPORT
Mr. Showalter stated that the last item on the agenda was to approve the 2019 Annual Report. Ms. Ellis moved to approve the 2019 Planning Commission Annual Report, was seconded by Ms. Richman and carried unanimously.
Mr. de Mooy stated that Mr. Meehan was going to come in to unveil his plans at the March 2020 meeting..
Mr. Showalter stated that he was resigning from the Commission and said that he enjoyed his time serving. The Commission thanked Mr. Showalter for his service.
There being no further business, Ms. Ellis moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:02 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Richman and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Jeffrey Grotsky