City Commission Considers Zoning Ordinance Amendment for Group Day Care Homes

City Commission Considers Zoning Ordinance Amendment for Group Day Care Homes
Photo by Gautam Arora / Unsplash

During Monday's City Commission Meeting, commissioners deliberated on approving an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance. The proposed amendment aims to include group day care homes, catering to a maximum of 12 children in unoccupied dwellings, among the conditional uses permitted in RS, R, R-1, R-2, R-2.5, R-3, and MH-S zoning districts.

The City of Salina has consistently worked towards aligning its local zoning regulations for day care centers with the standards set by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). KDHE oversees the sanitary and safety conditions in day care operations. The proposed amendment addresses the local authority in determining suitable locations for day care centers, particularly focusing on the category of "group day care center," which encompasses various types of day care facilities.

Currently, Salina's Zoning Ordinance requires day care operations in residential districts to either be situated in an occupied residential dwelling with a numerical limit on children or in a nonresidential building like a school, church, or YMCA-type facility with no numerical limit. The proposed changes seek to streamline the process for group day care homes, acknowledging the collaborative efforts between the City and local organizations like the Saline County Health Department, Salina YMCA, and Salina United Way Child Care Initiative.

The Planning Commission, on August 1, 2023, voted unanimously to initiate a zoning text amendment. The proposed changes eliminate the need for a Conditional Use Permit application and public hearing for group day care homes. The amendment also updates zoning definitions to align with state regulations.

A public hearing for the proposed amendments was scheduled for September 5, 2023. While the changes would remove certain public notice requirements, staff emphasizes the Planning Commission's historical approval of Group Day Care Home Conditional Use Permits without significant public comment or controversy. The City aims to reduce time and financial burdens on in-home day care providers.

Following Planning Commission approval, the City Commission on October 2, 2023, passed Ordinance No. 23-11175, officially implementing the proposed changes. A follow-up motion on September 5, 2023, directed staff to explore allowing unoccupied homes for day care, leading to a subsequent text amendment application initiated by planning staff.

Discussions with the Saline County Health Department and the Salina United Way Child Care Initiative prompted considerations for modular homes. The Dane Hansen Foundation's involvement in constructing modular homes for day care purposes added a new dimension. However, current regulations present obstacles for using unoccupied homes for day care without residing operators.

The proposed text amendment, set for discussion and public hearing on November 21, 2023, aims to address this issue. It opens the possibility for day care operators to purchase homes exclusively for day care without residing there. While offering additional options for care providers, the amendment may require local Building Code and Fire Code amendments.

After a formal public hearing on November 21, 2023, the Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the proposed zoning text amendment.

The motion was approved on first reading 5-0.

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