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Aldermen hear comments for and against changing daycare ordinance

Photo by Jay Forness

A Jackson city ordinance limits in-home daycares in residential districts to four children before a special use permit is required, but state statutes allow six children before a state license is required. Should Jackson change its ordinance from four to six? That is the question.

The Jackson Mayor and Board of Aldermen held a public hearing April 18 regarding a request from Brian Powell to amend the text of Chapter 65 of the Code of ordinances (Zoning) related to babysitting as a home occupation.

Brian and Angela Powell had operated a daycare for 10 children in their home at a previous address, but when they purchased their new home, their special use permit request was denied after numerous neighbors objected. This forced the Powells to reduce the number of children cared for in their home to no more than four, cutting both their profits and the number of daycare slots available to parents who need daycare.

Changing the city ordinance to allow six instead of four children without requiring a special use permit would grant the Powells some relief; would allow all in-home daycares to take in two more children, making more slots available for parents seeking daycare for their children; and would bring the Jackson ordinance in line with state statutes, the Powells contend.

“I love what I do,” Angela Powell told the aldermen. “Childcare is lacking in our area.”

Six people spoke in favor of the change. “Basically, there are 15,000 residents in Jackson. About six percent of them are children under the age of 5. That’s approximately a thousand children that need care in this area,” said Erica Hendrix. “Before the pandemic, there were seven facilities to care for all these children. Since the pandemic started, at least three have closed. One has reopened at the new facility, but the others have not. There is a huge need for care in this community. … Most families now have to have both parents working.”

Megan Roth said that in her experience, workers in in-home daycares are more attentive to the children than workers in other daycare facilities.

“It’s just two more kids. A lot of families would benefit from this,” said Caitlin Brown.

Nine people spoke in opposition to the change. Most noted that cities are zoned for a reason. They felt residential areas should be kept as quiet living spaces. Allowing businesses in residential areas disrupts neighborhoods, increasing traffic and noise, and lowering property values.

“The request for the change suggests that the city is not compliant with the State of Missouri laws. The State of Missouri licensing laws and the City of Jackson  zoning ordinances are two very different types of law with very different purposes,” stated Cindy Lichtenegger. “The state law is to protect the children. … Zoning laws define property use.”

“This would be a big change for all of us that live in the City of Jackson. Let’s keep it at no more than four,” said Bob Lichtenegger. He preferred that the City keep the ordinance as is and allow special use permits on a case-by-case basis so each neighborhood can have input on the decision that affects them, instead of a blanket change in the ordinance that affects every neighborhood.

“Our neighborhoods are so diverse,” added Karen Walker. Some neighborhoods have large yards and wide streets where two additional children at an in-home daycare may not be noticed. But other neighborhoods have small yards and narrow streets where two additional children attending in-home daycares could cause more problems for neighbors.

City Attorney Curtis Poore explained the history of the state statute and the city code.

“From 2014 to 2019, state law did not require a license for an in-home child daycare provider if the  provider only had four children under the age of 17. Children related by blood, marriage or adoption were not counted. The city code for babysitting as a home occupation mirrored the state law: four children at any time under the age of 17; you don’t count children related by blood, marriage or adoption.

“In 2019, state law was amended. The purpose of the state law was to make it more restrictive. Although it increased the number of children in home to six, it placed qualifications on how you count the children. … It was amended to six children, however, with a maximum of three under the age of 2. You do count toward the six the children living within the home too young to be eligible for enrollment in public school, essentially under the age of 5, even if the children are related by blood, marriage or adoption.

“The Legislature’s purpose in changing the law was to limit how many infant children a person can care for in the home without having a state-licensed child care facility.

“… Generally, if there is a conflict between a state law and a city code, state law preempts the city code.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission considered the Powells’ request for a text amendment to the city ordinances on Feb. 9 and scheduled a public hearing for March 9. Following that public hearing, the commission recommended amending the ordinance to allow five children, bringing it more in line with the city’s fire code.

When the matter came up for a vote by the aldermen later in the meeting, it was tabled to study session.

During study session, Aldermen Paul Sander and Dave Hitt commented that they considered this text amendment to be equivalent to approving a special use permit for the entire city. Sander said a special use permit should have no effect or a minimal effect on an R-1 or R-2 residential neighborhood before he voted for it. Hitt agreed, saying, “Would I want that in my neighborhood? The answer is no.”

The Board of Aldermen will remove the item from the table and take action on it at its May 2 meeting.

In other action

• Election: The Board accepted the certified election results of the April 5 election.

Later in the meeting, Larry Cunningham was recognized for his 26 years of service as an alderman in Ward 3. Mayor Dwain Hahs presented him with a plaque.

“It has been good times and bad times,” said Cunning-ham. Tonight was not a good time, necessarily.” After a pause, he added, “It has been a long time. I enjoyed it. I really liked working with the staff, and three different mayors, I think. I guess it’s time to move on to something else.”

“I just want to congratulate Larry on the 25-plus years of loyal and effective service,” said Sander. “Larry was never one who was afraid to speak his mind, never one to be afraid to ask tough questions, and he always had the best interest of Jackson at heart. I’m very proud to call Larry a friend of mine and a friend of Jackson.”

“You’ve done something you can be proud of,” added Hitt. Other aldermen added their comments and congratulations.

“We wish you the best,” concluded City Administrator Jim Roach.

City Clerk Liza Walker administered the oath of office to Aldermen Paul Sander, Dave Reiminger, Joe Bob Baker (all incumbents) and Michael Seabaugh, who defeated Cunningham.

• North High Street: A $35,300 task order to Strickland Engineering of Jackson was approved for surveying work under the North High Street Electric, Sewer and Water Utility Relocation Project.

• Assistance for low-income households: The Board authorized a supplier agreement with the Missouri Division of Social Services Family Support Division for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program. Low-income households can apply to DSS or to the East Missouri Action Agency for a one-time stipend to help with their utility payments.

• Easements: A portion of an access and parking easement was abandoned in Skinny’s Subdivision as requested by Quad Properties, LLC.

A utility easement was abandoned at 1962 Watson Dr. in Bent Creek Spring Lake Addition as requested by Daniel H. Rau.

• Gun sales: A public hearing was set for 6 p.m. Monday, May 16, to consider a special use permit for gun sales in a C-3 (central business) district at 125 Court St., as submitted by Jones Drug. The request is for a renter in an apartment over Jones Drug Store.

• Asphalt: A change order in the amount of $5,985.10 was approved to Paving Pros, LLC, of Oak Ridge for work on the 2021 Asphalt Pavement Improvement Program. The change order was necessary to approve additional quantities for Old Cape Road East and Greensferry Road, and included a pay reduction because North Georgia Street did not meet project specifications.

• Concrete improvement: The bid of $304,290 was accepted from Fronabarger Concreters, Inc., of Oak Ridge and a contract was authorized for work on the 2022 Concrete Pavement Improvement Program.

• Sewer: The bid of $149,750 was accepted from Persons & Son, Inc., of Poplar Bluff and a contract was authorized for work on the Klaus Park Force Main Upgrade Project, Phase 1.

• Parking: The “Parking Prohibited schedule” was amended by repealing and adding designations on Caney Fork Street, Flatrock Trace, Juden Brook Way and Sandy Brae Lane in Ramsey Branch Subdivision, Phase 1. This will prohibit parking in front of mailboxes and move parking to the other side of those streets.

• Homecomers: The Board gave a head nod approval to the American Legion Post 158’s request for a special use permit and street closures for Homecomers this summer. Street closures will be the same as last year. They will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 24, in front of the churches on High Street. Main Street will be closed beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, July 25. Streets will remain closed until 8 a.m. Sunday, July 31.

Larry Koehler, representing the American Legion, expressed concern that the county has notified him that the restrooms in the old courthouse building will not be available for public use during Homecomers. That will require the rental of additional porta-potties.

• Utility abandonment: During study session, N. Travis Smith requested that the City abandon a 10-foot utility easement across the back of his property in Nine Oaks Third Subdivision so he will have more room for an in-ground pool.

City staff was reluctant to abandon the easement or to reduce it in size. Usually if utilities need to be dug up, the city needs the full 20 foot width provided by 10 feet on one side of the property line and 10 feet on the other side of the property line.

As a compromise, the City agreed to work with Smith as he negotiates with the owner of the vacant property behind his. If that owner agrees to a 15-foot easement, the easement on Smith’ property could be reduced to 5 feet, giving him more usable area in his backyard.

City Engineer Anna Berg-mark cautioned that the easement must not go so deep into the neighboring property that it makes that property un-buildable.

• Aldi: During study session it was announced that Aldi has requested a special use permit to allow for its oversized signs on its building to be constructed at 2502 E. Jackson Blvd. The matter will come before the Board of Aldermen May 16.

• Dog park: It was reported that the Park Board trimmed down four possible locations for a dog park to two possible locations before tabling the matter.

• Road repairs: Bergmark reported in study session that the City is planning on performing full depth patches along North Farmington Road/ County Road 439. This stretch is half in the city and half in the county. City staff is recommending that the county portion of the roadway be included in the City’s 2022 Asphalt Pavement Improvement Program to ensure the integrity of the road and prepare for future overlays.

City Administrator Jim Roach said he thought this was fair, since the county improved Harmony Lane last year, which is both in the city and in the county.

• Kimbeland pump station: The Kimbeland Pump Station Improvement Project was estimated by engineers to cost $1.3 million. One bid was received for $2.4 million. City staff negotiated with the contractor to come up with alternatives that reduced the cost to $1.8 million. It will be recommended at a future meeting that the aldermen accept the original bid and then approve a contract for the original bid along with a change order bringing the project and its cost down to the final amount of approximately $1.8 million.

• Wastewater rates: A presentation was made on wastewater rates.

• Litter: Alderman Hitt announced that the Southeast Missouri Service Rotary Club picked up trash for one mile along Highway 25. “Eight people showed up that Saturday at 2:00 and we picked up about 19 bags of trash. What’s somewhat rewarding is that other citizens who were not part of the Rotary were out picking up trash along Highway 25. I’m assuming people realized we’ve got some issues with trash blowing out of trucks or wherever it’s coming from.”

• Hubble ford: Hitt questioned why progress has been so slow on the low-water bridge replacement at Hubble ford in City Park. He was told rain has caused some delays. Also, the workers had to cut into the rock at the bottom of the creek to set the second bridge support, and that has taken some time. “Pumping water out to work in there has been a challenge,” reported Public Works Director Kent Peetz.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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