Saturday, June 7, 2008

Planners Deny Permit for Daycare at Campbell Community Church

[By Chris Vongsarath - Campbell Reporter]

The Campbell, California Planning Commission (near San Jose) denied a conditional-use permit for the operation of a daycare center and preschool at a church on Virginia Avenue in a split decision on May 27.

Neighbors had publicly criticized the proposal for bringing more traffic and noise into the neighborhood. The center was looking to operate on weekdays at the Campbell Community Church of God of Prophecy, which neighbors argued is already supporting enough operations at its facility in addition to its weekend services.

The May 27 meeting continued a discussion from April, in which the planning commission asked the applicant to provide more in-depth information and to hold a meeting with concerned neighbors.

The neighborhood meeting produced mixed results.

"Nothing has changed from my standpoint," neighbor David Meyer told commissioners.

But the applicant, Merat Ayalew, said traffic generated by the daycare center would be scattered throughout the day, with various pick-up and drop-off times for children. Proposed hours for the center were 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"The neighbors are assuming that there is going to be a pile of cars in the parking lot," Ayalew said. "I guarantee there won't be cars blocking traffic from going smoothly."

Ayalew, who holds a state license for an at-home daycare center, offered to reduce the maximum number of children allowed at the church's center from 30 to 22. The center would have served 1- to 5-year-olds.

Although the church is in a residential neighborhood, commissioners struggled with the decision because the proposal was consistent with the city's General Plan, and the area is zoned for public facilities.

Commissioner George Doorley noted that there are few properties in Campbell available for such facilities.

Neighbors responded by asking what would happen if the business failed, considering the conditional-use permit applies to the building itself and not the applicant. Therefore, neighbors argued, it would be feasible in the future for another, possibly bigger, business to operate in the facility.

They provided the commission with a petition signed by 61 residents opposed to the center.

Subsequently, some commissioners felt the proposal was still missing vital information.

"I am challenged to consider this application because it is so incomplete--it is so broadly brushed," Commissioner Liz Gibbons said.

Chairman Bob Roseberry added, "I'm not comfortable that the rules and requirements have been really thought through."

Commissioner Gary Gairaud disagreed.

"It's meeting the needs that it has to, and I could support this," he said.

Commissioners voted 4-3 to deny the permit. The decision is final unless Ayalew files an appeal.

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