The Rockville Board of Appeals denied a proposed home day care expansion in the city’s historic West End following complaints from neighbors who said the expansion would create traffic problems and add another institution to a primarily residential neighborhood.
Rubina Mohammed runs a day care center in her home in Rockville’s West End. By law, she is allowed to keep up to eight children at the center, but she wanted to expand to 12 children and hire another helper.
To raise that cap, she would need a special exception to the city’s zoning ordinance, but the Rockville Board of Appeals denied her application during a July 13 meeting.
If she had known beforehand how much trouble it would be to apply for the special exception, Mohammed said she would not have tried to get one.
“It’s a waste of time and money,” she said.
Mohammed said the decision was a disappointment, but not unexpected. City staff recommended approving the application, but the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend rejecting it, saying the request was not in keeping with the city’s master plan.
Some neighbors, including the West End Citizens Association, opposed an expansion, saying it would be detrimental to an area that is primarily residential and should not have too many businesses.
“I don’t know why they’re making a big deal about it,” Mohammed said ahead of the July 13 meeting. She doesn’t think expanding her business would affect the character of the city.
“They’re calling it an institution,” she said. “From eight kids to 12 kids, they’re comparing my day care with elementary schools.”
Noreen Bryan, president of the citizens group, said expanding the day care capacity is contrary to the city’s master plan.
“The four children is not really the issue,” Bryan said. “The issue is that we’re becoming truly saturated with institutions. ... Where does it end?”
The citizens group has expressed concern over institutions in the neighborhood that want to expand their facilities.
Mohammed’s next-door neighbor, who shares a driveway with her, opposed the expansion over concerns about noise and traffic, and Bryan agrees.
“It’s not an appropriate location for this facility,” Bryan said. “... It affects the quality of life of their neighbor.”
Mohammed said she has been working to get the special exception since January and spent about $7,600 on application fees, the required notification letters and a sign to advertise public meetings. That’s about a quarter of her yearly income, she said.
Ahead of the meeting that finally denied her application, Mohammed said she just wanted the process to be over.
“My business is in trouble,” she said, adding that the debate has created tension with her neighbors and parents of the children she cares for. “If I had known that, I would not have gone through this mess.”