Home Indiana News Warsaw City Council Approves Daycare Ordinance On First Reading

Warsaw City Council Approves Daycare Ordinance On First Reading

By approving a daycare center ordinance on first reading Monday night, the Warsaw Common Council hopes to help address the childcare desert in the city and county by amending the current city code.

No one remonstrated against the ordinance at Monday’s public hearing. The second and final reading of the ordinance will be at 7 p.m. July 18. The Warsaw Plan Commission unanimously voted on June 13 to send a favorable recommendation on the ordinance to the Council.

Mayor Joe Thallemer told the Council that the ordinance was one the city has been working on for a while.

“We’ve taken a few field trips. We’ve had a lot of discussion, trying to figure out what’s best for our community to enhance the opportunity for daycare, which is obviously a workforce issue,” he said.

Miriel McFarland, director of education and training at Instrumental Machine & Development Inc. (IMD), who attended Monday’s meeting, has been at the forefront of the issue for IMD, Thallemer said.

On the ordinance, City Planner Justin Taylor told the Council, “The city is addressing barriers for residents related to childcare in our community. A committee was formed to reach out and engage with childcare providers to see what specific obstacles prevent them from fulfilling their mission. Practical difficulties related to the permissiveness in the city’s municipal code were noted during these discussions.”

He said currently a daycare center needs a use variance to locate within a Residential-1 zoning district, Commercial-2, C-3, C-4 or C-5 zoning district; or a special exception to locate within an R-2 or R-3 zoning districts.

“So, regardless of the zoning district, anywhere in the city if you want to locate a daycare center, you would need to take a trip to the (Board of Zoning Appeals),” Taylor said.

Having these restrictions on daycare centers does create some difficulties for childcare providers with the current real estate market, he said. “They’re faced with two options: Either the property is usually sold or purchased by the time they apply to the BZA and get through the process because that takes about a month; or they can purchase the property and risk thousands of dollars if their BZA request is denied.”

Taylor said the committee gathered information and asked what the city could do to improve the situation.

“So what we’re proposing here is that childcare centers would be permitted by right instead of a special exception in an R-3 zone and they would be permitted by right within a C-2 zone. We felt these zoning districts would be more conducive to having this type of childcare center where it’s a commercially run facility,” he said, adding that the number of children would be restricted by the size of the facility.

The facilities also would have to meet the other state and local regulations.

The ordinance also would allow for a special exception in a C-3 zoning district.

McFarland said, “We’re in unchartered territory here as far as city code goes and even cities and counties throughout Indiana where we are wanting to offer a childcare home in which it’s not a residential property. The hours of operation would be at maximum 12 hours a day. No one is sleeping there. However, that could change eventually if we wanted to open it up to our second- and third-shift employees.”

As such, she said they’ve been deemed commercial and because they’re commercial “that’s where we’re running into these codes that are creating barriers to the essential problem, which is childcare, which, as the mayor had mentioned, is essential to our workforce.”

McFarland said she doesn’t think the issue is unique to Warsaw, but an “epidemic” that Hoosiers – as well as many Americans – are suffering from “as we’re all looking to find out how to increase our workforce and get the childcare – quality, affordable childcare – that is needed and make it available.”

She said they’re trying to create more childcare spots with this type of legislation.

After the Council reviewed a map that showed where the daycares would be permitted by right and special exception, Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins said, “In the grand scheme of things, it’s really very small.”

Councilman Jeff Grose said R-3 permits small businesses and does allow for more liberal use, while R-1 is the most restrictive. “It will be a friendly move for people interested in providing these services,” he said.

He noted that the Plan Commission, which he and Councilwoman Diane Quance serve on, had a very good discussion about the ordinance changes. Quance said the Commission had a lot of good discussion about how the ordinance could affect homeowners, including issues of parking and fencing.

“I’ll admit I did have some concerns at the Plan Commission meeting, but housing is a concern in this area. Do we want to be a growing community? Housing is a concern and then daycare,” Grose said before sharing his own stories about daycare. “… I can not imagine the number of families that are wrestling with affordable childcare and is it even available. … So it’s a serious issue.”

Thallemer said LaunchPad has done a great job of getting the city to this point and helped the schools out with childcare restrictions by working to get a state statute passed. “They’re looking for opportunities to try to balance out the regulations and costs to make it affordable. It’s a tough balancing act and these little changes in our ordinance just create more opportunity for affordable childcare,” he said.

Quance made the motion to approve the ordinance on first reading and Grose seconded it. It was approved 7-0.

In other business, the Council:

• Was presented with a 2023 budget timeline from Clerk-Treasurer Lynne Christiansen. She reminded the Council members that if they attend the meeting electronically, they can not vote on any budget item.

The City Council meetings will start at 6 p.m. Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 for the presentation of department budgets plus any other business.

The public hearing and first reading of the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 19. Adoption hearing and final reading is at 7 p.m. Oct. 3.

The 2023 budget will be advertised on Gateway.ifionline.org no later than Sept. 6 or at least 10 days before the public hearing on Sept. 19.

The salary ordinance must be adopted by Nov. 1, and the elected salary ordinance by Dec. 31. Nov. 1 is the deadline to adopt 2023 budgets, rates and levies.

• Approved on second reading the voluntary annexation of the property at 2199 E. Old 30 in Wayne Township. Thallemer said the family at that residence wants to get on the city sewer system so they voluntarily requested to be annexed into the city limits.

• Approved a resolution to transfer a total of $75,000 from police insurance and police salaries to police machinery and equipment, as requested by Warsaw Police Chief Scott Whitaker. Forty-two body cameras will be purchased for $25,000, with an Indiana Department of Homeland Security matching grant reimbursing $16,800 of that cost. The other $50,000 will be used for the purchase of a 2022 police vehicle and equipment.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the investment of public funds. Christiansen reminded the Council they do this every year. Baker Tilly advises the city on what to invest in and how.