City gives conditional approval to Four Lakes child care bid

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

After substantial debate at a meeting of the Madison Mayor and City Council, the council voted unanimously in favor of issuing a home child-care conditional use permit to Melissa Camp at 1219 Four Lakes Drive, Madison, with the condition that the permit only be issued once all applicable state laws regarding child care facilities have been met.

The council included four additional conditions to the approval, requiring that no regular on-street parking occur at the residence, that Camp maintain a current occupational tax certificate, that Camp create a fenced-in play area on the property, and that the conditional use expires when she ceases to be the owner/occupant of the property.

Madison Planner Bryce Jaeck informed the council that the Morgan County Planning Commission had recommended approval of the conditional use permit by a vote of 6-2 and that the commission members had expressed concern with traffic and supervision issues during their discussion. Camp, a preschool teacher at Madison’s First United Methodist Church, said that she began taking care of other’s children around three years ago and that she is “not looking to open a full-fledged day care.” She says that she currently keeps three children, two four-year-olds and a three-year-old, in addition to her own children, who are eight, ten and 13.

Andy Lindsey, Camp’s next door neighbor, spoke against the conditional use permit, saying that he had regularly observed more than six children – the maximum limit for home child-care facilities according to Madison’s ordinance – at Camp’s residence and that the number of vehicles at the residence has also been an issue in the past. Camp responded by saying that she has only ever watched three to four children in an official capacity and that other children around the residence are either her own children or friends of her children that are visiting. She also said that the number of cars at her residence often does not have anything to do with the children that she watches, stating that she owns three vehicles of her own and that she often has friends visit her residence.

City Council Member Joe DiLetto expressed concern about the city’s liability if the city issued a permit to Camp without taking the state regulations regarding day care facilities into account. DiLetto said that should Camp look into the state licensure requirements, describing them as “onerous.” He also recommended that the council table the issue so Camp has a chance to look into the requirements. City Attorney Joe Retiman suggested that the issuance of a state license be a condition of their approval in order to placate DiLetto’s concerns.

Mayor Fred Perriman indicated that more time should be allowed for the city’s staff to look into the issue before the council come to a conclusion. DiLetto responded by saying that the suggestion that council members should wait to form their opinion on the work done by staff is a “load,” and he added that he had sent a request to each of the council members asking them to do research into the matter for themselves before the meeting. Council Member Rick Blanton said that the purpose of having a city staff and a city attorney is for the city council to be able to base their judgment on the staff’s work.

DiLetto noted that the state regulations appear to say that a license is only necessary if more than two children are being cared for. Reitman said that a condition that the permit only be issued once Camp is in compliance with all applicable state laws would cover the city’s “duty” regardless of whether state regulations became relevant based on the number of children Camp would care for. The conditional use permit was approved with that condition, as well as the four conditions listed above that were recommended by the Planning Commission. City Manager David Nunn stated that sidewalk installation projects would soon be underway along Vine Street and on Eatonton Highway near Beacon Hights in order to fill in the missing gaps between existing sidewalks in that neighborhood.

Special Projects Coordinator Ann Huff said that the city had approximately 850 bike riders during the BRAG Spring Tune-Up. She said that, although the event is “very labor intensive” that it has become a “real community thing.” The city council voted to approve the mayor to sign a supplemental contract with the Municipal Gas Authority (MGA), which will allow the city to extend their contract for 20 years. Nunn stated that the city receives a refund of $70,000 to $75,000 per year in addition to tax incentives from its partnership with the MGA.

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