Fairfax County is preparing for a flood of home child-care providers to begin applying for zoning permits after the Board of Supervisors approved new rules for home day care Tuesday.
The county has been working to update its regulations for about a year, after a change in procedures brought to light the fact that hundreds of state-licensed child-care providers in the county didn’t comply with county zoning laws.
The state introduced a requirement that local governments sign off on licensing forms, affirming that the in-home child-care facility is in compliance with local zoning codes.
With Tuesday’s action, providers can now care for up to 12 children in their homes, but they must apply for a special permit that will be reviewed by the Board of Zoning Appeals. They can care for up to seven children in a single-family home or five in a townhouse without a permit.
Previously, the county maximum for zoning purposes was 10 children, while providers can be licensed through the state process to care for up to 12 children, depending on a number of factors specific to each child-care business.
“This is a home business and it’s important that we look out for the interests of everyone, including neighbors,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) said.
Prior to the change in state regulations, most child-care providers did not apply for county permits and many said during a public hearing last month that they had not even been aware of the rules.
Those residing in certain planned community zoning districts, such as Kingstowne in southeastern Fairfax County, still will have go through the more complex special exception process, which requires review and approval by the Board of Supervisors.
These “P districts” are “very tight, they have community amenities that are on private property,” Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) said. “Every single one of them in my community has parking problems.”
McKay also requested that county staff look at ways to streamline the special exception process for in-home child care and look at reducing the fee associated with that use.
The fee for a special exception application for a home child-care center is $1,100, compared with the $435 fee the board set for special permit applications.
To aid child-care providers in the permitting process, the county zoning office will do extensive outreach through community meetings and will have staff members designated as ombudsmen to help applicants navigate the process, Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson said.
“We have tried to streamline the application process,” Johnson said.
The county also is extending the current grace period on zoning enforcement to the end of March 2014, Johnson said. As long as child-care providers have their permit applications filed by that time, they will not be subject to zoning penalties, she said.