A zoning bylaw amendment for a proposed expansion to a childcare facility in the Ravenswood subdivision drew a significant number of both supporters and opponents to a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
District of Squamish council heard from residents via livestream, over the phone, and from a limited, in-person gathering at the Brennan Park Recreation Centre.
“The rezoning will allow [for] the creation of more quality space,” said applicant Rosa Barcotti, owner of the Project Play Family Centre, during the meeting. “I hope with this process we’ll help create a path for the District of Squamish and other small, childcare facilities to increase childcare opportunities … What we have here is a great opportunity to work together and find a solution to a challenge that a fast-growing community faces.”
The centre, located on Falcon Crescent, currently operates as a licensed-home-based facility for eight children, ranging in age from 30 months to school age.
Barcotti initially wanted to expand to 16 spaces, allowed under a 2014 zoning amendment bylaw, however, in order to meet the building code for that number, the owner is required to make a number of building modifications. Since that option costs up to $300,000, the applicant has instead proposed to move out of the home and live elsewhere in order to expand the centre, which means fire separations between floors are no longer required, saving some money.
This rezoning would reclassify the home from “childcare facility, residential” to “child care facility.” The space would meet the province’s minimum indoor and outdoor facility space requirements for 24 children, according to a report from June 30, 2020.
At that special council meeting, council gave the first two readings to the amendment and set the public hearing date.
Council also asked the applicant for more detail on the traffic management plan, measures for intersection safety and active travel, like walking or biking. At that meeting, council heard that with 24 children, it’s expected 12 to 18 kids could be arriving by vehicle, creating the need to reduce traffic impacts and travel modes.
To that end, Project Play proposed giving priority to families within 500 metres, offering bike and stroller parking, and staggering pick-up and drop-off times.
Staff also proposed Project Play fund two parking signs on Blue Jay Way and one no-parking sign on Falcon Crescent for $1,500 while the District would pay $2,000 for one no u-turn sign on Blue Jay Way, two playground zone signs on Falcon Crescent, and another no parking sign on the same street.
In the meantime, one of the neighbourhood’s biggest concerns was increased traffic to the area. Leading up to the public hearing, council received 25 pieces of correspondence with 17 citing concerns and 19 offering support.
“One of the things that [a group of neighbours] talked about, the big issue was no u-turn on Blue Jay [Way],” said neighbour Jared Sissons during the hearing. “That would mean all the cars that were dropping off or parking there would have to go through the whole neighbhourood. That’s a huge concern.”
Other neighbours highlighted concerns over noise, the suitability of having a commercial space in a residential neighbourhood, and the impact on the value of homes.
However, others in attendance spoke in favour of the rezoning, citing Barcotti as an excellent neighbour and explaining the dire need for more childcare spaces in Squamish.
“Deterring women like Rosa that are so passionate about educating children and wanting to better the lives of children, it’s the last thing that Squamish needs right now,” Terri Abbey said in the hearing. “Having a childcare facility does not bring crime into your neighbourhood … If there are no suitable space[s] for children in our community, how are we supposed to work and thrive in our community?”