Wednesday, July 9, 2008

North Potomac day care center may see expansion

Neighbors worry about noise, traffic

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A North Potomac day care could add several grades and increase its students and staff after the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday recommended approval of a special exception request.

Academy Child Development Center, located on the north side of Darnestown Road between Travilah Road and Good Earth Court, asked the Planning Board to modify its current special exception for the day care facility, an 8,277 square-foot building housing classrooms and a house containing administrative space and a residence for the president.

The modification would allow the center to attach an adjacent parcel of land to the site, improve landscaping, demolish an existing building there, construct a covered play area and add parking spaces.

The center also requested an additional special exception for a private education facility that would allow the addition of first and second grades, and increase the number of students from 88 to 130 and the number of staff from 19 to 31.

The recommendation will be reviewed by the Hearing Examiner Friday and must go before the Board of Appeals before final approval.

Neighbors have complained that the increase in size and number of students at the facility would have a detrimental effect on the neighborhood.

‘‘The request for a maximum of 130 children will create a situation in which the noise level will be intolerable,” wrote Schain Lolatchy, a neighbor of the property, in an April 23 letter to the Board of Appeals. ‘‘The request for a private educational institution paves the way for this facility to not be a day care only...eventually becoming a private school.”

Lolatchy also expressed concerns about additional student pickups and drop-offs causing traffic congestion.

At the Planning Board hearing, Lesley Everhart, a representative for Academy Child Development Center, said she didn’t anticipate a problem with noise.

‘‘We’re out there periodically during the day getting some outdoor time, but really, they won’t make much noise,” Everhart said.

A condition of the Planning Board’s recommendation was that some lingering traffic issues be resolved before the request moves to the Board of Appeals.

The applicant requested that a restriction on left turns onto Darnestown Road be lifted for trucks and buses, which have better visibility.

However, citing enforcement issues, planning staff recommended holding off and resolving the issue during the preliminary plan with the Department of Public Works and Transportation.

‘‘We are concerned that once the left-turn restriction for buses and trucks are removed, it would be difficult to enforce the restriction for passenger vehicles that do not have sufficient sight distance to make a safe left turn,” read a memo from transportation planning staff.

However, Planning Board Vice Chairman John Robinson said he favored issuing a stronger recommendation in terms of traffic. ‘‘I want that issue resolved before we go to the Board of Appeals,” Robinson said. To do otherwise, he said, would be a non-action.3

The Planning Board recommended that the left-turn restriction be lifted for trucks and buses, and that the school should seek to effectively enforce the measure.

Everhart, while saying she was ‘‘very exited” about the expansion, told The Gazette she would not comment further until final approval of the special exception.