Soldotna council OK’s new daycare

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014 10:34pm
  • News

After six months of debate, the city of Soldotna will be getting a new daycare.

Following a second appeal to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Robyn Schneider was given permission to open an in-home daycare facility, to be called Schneider’s Nest, on North Kobuk Street.

The council granted the appeal for a conditional use permit that includes six recommendations by city staff and is contingent upon Schneider providing a site plan that is approved by the planning department, said council member Linda Murphy. The property is also unable to post any signs relating to the business that are not in harmony with the residential character of the neighborhood, she said.

On Tuesday evening the city council, acting as the Board of Adjustment, reviewed Schneider’s proposal. Deliberations that included the council, city attorney Brooks Chandler and city clerk Shellie Saner were held in an executive session.

Prior to the decision the board heard testimony from Schneider, residents in favor and against the daycare and city planner John Czarnezki. Staff recommended that the city reject the daycare, Czarnezki said.

At a planning and zoning commission’s remand hearing on Oct. 28 Czarnezki had recommended granting Schneider permission to open the facility. The previous recommendation was based on five criteria including available parking, set drop-off and pick-up times to minimize the effect on residential traffic flow, limiting the number of children on the property, and setting an expiration date for the permit.

Ultimately the commission was unable to get past the property’s proximity to the intersection of Redoubt Avenue and Kobuck Street. Schneider’s house is located 60 feet away from the busy intersection.

“The proximity to the intersection is a safety issue that can’t be modified through conditions or other actions of the applicant,” Czarnezki said. “We feel the commission was diligent in their work and came to a reasonable decision.”

Resident Sheila Casey came to testify against the facility because of potential safety issues more traffic may cause. Samantha Morris said the hours of operation would cause disruptions to the neighborhood and was particularly concerned about her son’s bedroom, which faces the street where headlights would disrupt his sleep.

Debbie Goodrich said she was frustrated with the hoops Schneider has had to jump through.

“It seems like every time you tell her to do something you move the goalpost, and she doesn’t have a chance,” Goodrich said. “She has done everything you have asked her to do and more.”

Schneider said she is ecstatic about the decision regardless of how drawn out the process was. Once a permit is approved a 30-day period follows when residents, city staff or Schneider can appeal the decision for a legal cause, she said.

Schneider can now receive a certification through Thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, and it is likely the daycare will be in operation no later than early March, she said.

“I want to work with the city, I want to work with my neighbors, I want to work with everybody,” Schneider said. “I love working with children and parents and want to help the community.”

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