By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — A day care, operating in an unoccupied home, received approval at the Thursday, May 18, meeting of the Syracuse Board of Zoning Appeals to open up 10 additional spaces.
Leticia Howell, who operates a day care at 700 S. Syracuse-Webster Road, received approval from the board to increase the maximum number of children from 16 to 26. Howell has received state permits/licenses for a second day care at that location. The request was unanimously approved by the local board.
Matt Sandy, county plan director, explained in 2021 zoning requirements were amended to allow nonoccupied home day care. This opened the door for day cares to be in a commercial or residential area. However, there are stringent criteria. Locally the ordinance stated no more than 16 children would be allowed in such situations.
“There’s no doubt day care is needed,” Sandy stated. However, he stated the state statute has different criteria that allow expansion either by space or the number of children if a separate dwelling is created. Howell is in the process of adding a separate dwelling space.
Steve Snyder, the attorney representing Howell, stated the number one concern is protection of children. What Howell is doing is adding a fire wall between the main portion of the home and the garage, creating two separate dwellings.
The day care originally started in the garage and through remodeling there is now adequate space for 10 additional children. The home portion of the house will house 16 children, while the converted garage will hold 10. This meets the state statute.
Snyder addressed all concerns to zoning board members. Letters of support were provided by area businesses and an offer by Wawasee Heights Baptist Church for the three employees to use the church parking lot. He also stated Howell has a degree in early childhood development and “knows what needs to be done. This is a significant asset.”
Board members sought clarification on several issues, such as whether the child-to-adult ratio was being met, whether the number of children could continue to increase, which doors would be used for entrance, the ages of children and overall questions regarding day care requirements in nonresidential areas.
It was stated the ratio of children to adults is met, the day care serves those newborn to 3 years old, the garage door and front door will be used and Howell has no intention of increasing the number. To do so would require adding on to the existing building, which space does not allow.
“There is an obvious need of child care. But we need residences. You’re taking out a residential unit to supply child care,” stated board member Matt Goodnight. It was pointed out the day care, while in a home, is a nonoccupied home.
Brandon Wolferman, board member, stated he would rather see a residence used this way rather than a day care in a pole building.
The only other case before the board was a variance request by Troy Stutzman, to construct a residence 10 feet from the rear property line and allow an air conditioning unit to be located under stairs, 2 feet from the sideline on the south side of Medusa Street, east of Front Street.
The board unanimously approved his request with minimal questions. Stutzman plans to build a two-story building — the lower lever to be used for storage with the second floor to be used as a living space. He noted a decorative fence would be added to the property on the east side.
During the discussion it was noted that the rear of his building would line up with other property on that side of the road, but the front would be approximately 7 feet further toward the road than those buildings. However, it was still within the setback requirements.
“It’s not going to harm anybody,” Wolferman stated after it was noted a similar situation was done at several properties to the east.