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Emmitsburg prohibits commercial facilities
 in residential areas

Ingrid Mezo

(12/8) Emmitsburg officials voted 4-0 during a town meeting Monday to amend the town code to restrict the type of day care facility that may operate in residential areas.

Commissioner Glenn Blanchard was absent from the meeting.

The code amendment will stop anyone from purchasing a home in Emmitsburg and turning it into a commercial day care operation, Commissioner Chris Staiger said.

The former town code did not distinguish between family child care homes and child care centers, the two types of regulated child care facilities in Maryland according to the Maryland State Department of Education's Office of Child Care Web site.

Family child care homes, the type the amended town code allows, are child care programs operated by professional caregivers in private homes. The caregivers may care for up to eight children in their homes at the same time, and only four of the children may be under the age of 2. Family child care providers may only watch two children younger than 2, including their own, unless additional staff are present.

By contrast, child care centers are professionally staffed commercial facilities which serve larger groups of children. The code now explicitly prohibits this type of facility in residential areas.

The former town code allowed for special exceptions in residential districts for a ‘‘nursery school or child care center, provided it contains an adequately sized play area, fully fenced and enclosed, and the main structure is no closer than 20 feet from any adjacent zoning district line or lot line."

Right now, no child care centers exist in residential areas in Emmitsburg.

A resident of the Brookfield subdivision who is a licensed family child care home provider brought the matter up before the board after a neighbor complained about her child care facility. The resident wanted to make sure that she was complying with town regulations, at which time the town saw cause to restrict the type of child care facility that could be run in a residential area, Town Planner Mike Lucas said. She will have to appear before the Board of Appeals to request running a family child care home in the Brookfield Development.

Lucas could not recall the name of the resident who brought the board’s attention to the matter. He also could not say how many child care operators there are in the town now.

The state regulates and licenses child care facilities. Before issuing a license, the state inspects the home verifying that it is safe, clean, appropriate for child care use and meets all applicable health and fire codes. The facility also has to provide ‘‘an adequate supply of safe and age-appropriate activity equipment and materials."

In addition, the caregiver and program staff are required to undergo police background checks, receive physical examinations and complete a specified amount of pre-service education or training in child care topics.

The caregiver and staff must continue to receive training on a regular basis once the facility is in operation.

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