Both “walkability” and “child care” in the same post? It’s a Decatur blogger’s dream come true!
Tonight, the Decatur City Commission will vote on approving amendments to the zoning ordinance to allow family home daycares in R-85 and R-60, approved by the Decatur Planning Commission last week.
So? Well, of particular note is a conversation recorded in the minutes from the Planning Commission meeting (page 22) between some of the commission members and Planning Director Amanda Thompson. The issue at hand is the lot size requirement in the proposed ordinance, because while the state regulates 35 square feet per child of indoor space, there is no outdoor requirement. (In Georgia, family daycares can watch a max of six children per day.)
In response to an unrecorded question from commission member Scott Doyon, Ms. Thompson explained that she had recommended a 10,000 square foot lot size “because it would allow an adequate play space as well as a buffer between neighboring properties.” She also admitted that most R-60 lots are smaller than 9,000 square feet and thus would not meet the minimum lot size to allow a family home daycare.
Mr. Doyon responded by suggesting an “incremental lot size requirement based on the size of the lot” and “stated that residents who live in neighborhoods with smaller lots would appreciate being able to walk to a family day care and that requiring a larger lot size would prevent this use from being established in most Decatur neighborhoods.” (A large majority of Decatur property is zoned R-60, as evidenced by this color-coded zoning map – pdf)
However, no one else on the commission agreed with Mr. Doyon and the amendment passed with the 10,000 lot size requirement included. According to the minutes, commission member Tony Powers stated that “it would be difficult to meet lot coverage limits and build a play area on small lots”, while Melissa Manrow noted that a lots below minimum size could request a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
But it’s an interesting tension that boils up time and again in our fair city. Various zoning ordinances vs. efforts towards walkability. In this particular case, it’s a bit more interesting since Decatur has an infamous lack of child care options. In her letter to the City Manager, Ms. Thompson notes that “the city has attempted to provide a balance between allowing this use of residential property to provide services and mitigating the impact on surrounding property owners.”
Whatcha think guys and gals?