Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board recommended approval Wednesday of a request by the Home Away From Home daycare center to expand its operation at the southeast corner of Binks Forest Drive and Bent Creek Road, although board members were concerned about traffic in the area.
Senior Planner Damian Newell said the petitioner was seeking to amend its conditional use to increase the number of children from 171 to 299 by increasing its square footage from 9,043 square feet to 14,686.
“The Binks Commercial Center was originally approved for 15 commercial lots, each with one-story, 3,600-square-foot office buildings,” Newell said. “The daycare center would now be on four lots.”
He said the development has only one access point on Bent Creek Road, and direct access to Binks Forest Drive would be required to mitigate traffic impacts.
“This new access would require a northbound right-turn lane and opening on Binks Forest Drive,” Newell said, adding that a one-way circulation would be added internally for pickup and drop-off during peak periods, with a staff member in the parking lot directing traffic.
Wellington staff recommended approval of the request.
Michelle Hoyland of Land Design South, representing Home Away From Home, said the Binks Commercial Center is surrounded by residential uses, and there are only two other buildings that have been constructed on the property.
Hoyland proposed two traffic alternatives should the initial plan not be desirable.
“Both will… assure that people can enter and exit in an orderly fashion,” Hoyland said, explaining that the old traffic plan resulted in traffic jams in the parking lot, and the new plan has additional drop-off spaces to help alleviate that. “This will help alleviate any concern of new enrollees, but staff wanted us to come up with a plan that should it become a problem, we have a safeguard, and that way the village feels they have met the requirements.”
She said the daycare center will not have parents dropping off children curbside, but will have 21 designated spaces for drop-off and pickup.
“These are young children,” Hoyland said. “They have to be walked in and they have to be checked in. The same happens in the evening. You have to come in, sign your child out and leave. You have to park your car.”
The center will also have designated spaces for employees, which would grow from 16 to 23 after the expansion. The total number of spaces would be 52.
Board Member Carol Coleman said it appeared that there were not enough drop-off spaces for nearly 300 children, but Hoyland said that daycare hours are staggered.
“These people who come, just like us, all have staggered work hours, so we don’t have a flux of everybody coming at 7,” she said. “I don’t have a graphic to show you, but they have identified that it is a staggered pattern.”
Hoyland noted that owner Larissa Silva also operates several other centers, and they have similar patterns.
Silva said the expansion will be primarily for a three-hour, state-funded program for children ages 4 and up and would not interfere with typical morning and evening traffic.
Newell added that Home Away From Home had added more parking spaces than what the code currently requires, at staff’s request.
Board Member George Unger said he was concerned about the possibility of traffic backing onto Binks Forest Drive. “If it becomes dangerous,” Unger said, “you have to be prepared for that.”
Board Member Paul Adams said that as a commercial real estate agent, the site has proven itself to be low-intensity, with a doctor and a dentist as the only other occupants. “It’s almost a failed project,” Adams said. “The daycare rescued it.”
Adams made a motion to approve the request, which carried 7-0.