Bringing up children could get easier in Port Coquitlam as the city moves to make changes to policies and land use to get more child care in residential homes, townhouses and commercial buildings.
This week, councillors supported a wide-ranging action plan with the goal of meeting the huge gap in child care that has been identified in the Tri-Cities.
At a committee meeting Tuesday (July 13), council gave preliminary approval to a new child care policy as well as changes to zoning and parking regulations that councillors said could go along way to making it easier for child care operators to add spaces or start new daycares.
“Given the nature of what we’re dealing with, and the need in the community, we are moving forward and trying to facilitate the need,” said Coun. Darrell Penner.
The goal of the action plan would be to double and, in some cases, triple the number of child care spots in the city, a need that was identified by a recent study.
If approved, the new child care policy would attempt to achieve the following targets:
• Double the number of infant/toddler spaces (under aged three) to 33 spaces per 100 children from 15 per 100 children;
• Increase by 70% the number of spaces for preschoolers (three to five years) to 75 spaces per 100 children, up from 44 per 100 children, currently;
• Triple the number of spaces for school age children (six to nine years) to 42 spaces per 100 children, up from 14 per 100 children.
Once adopted, the changes would provide more flexibility in the number of children allowed in a daycare by increasing the number of children in a town-home child care from five to eight and for larger daycares in district commercial and neighbourhood commercial zones from 25 to 50, with actual numbers determined by Fraser Health requirements.
The zoning bylaw would also lift restrictions on the size of child care centres in accessory buildings in single family neighbourhoods, noting Fraser Health will ensure minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements.
(In some cases, larger child care facilities wouldn’t be permitted, such as in duplexes and on agricultural land where government policies restrict the numbers to eight.)
Other changes include:
• More flexibility would be provided for daycares on properties located in a cul-de-sac or dead end street, as they are required to provide on-site parking
• Permission for commercial schools, such as cheer leading, martial arts or STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) educators to provide licensed before and after school career holiday camps, in line with Fraser Health requirements.
Non-profit day cares looking at starting up in the city would get special consideration with a policy that would make them exempt from development application fees, a $3,200 savings to new start-ups.
The policy also aims to promote more outdoor play spaces in commercial areas, increase the number of spaces to accommodate shift workers and children with special needs, look for ways to provide child care in facilities on city lands, and encourage developers to include child care facilities in mixed-use and large family-oriented developments.
“Collectively, these recommendations are intended to ensure City policy, regulations and processes support the creation of more high-quality child care spaces to achieve the city’s child care space creation targets and meet the needs of Port Coquitlam families,” a staff report stated.
Port Coquitlam’s new child care policy and proposed zoning changes come as the B.C. and federal governments have signed a joint agreement to provide $10-a-day child care within the next five years.