On Tuesday, the Cortez planning and zoning commission voted not to consider a proposed land use amendment that would allow child care as a conditional use in the Industrial Park.
At their March meeting, the board had considered a request from Osprey Packs to change the city land use code so that the company could offer day care to their employees, many of whom have small children, at their current Progress Circle headquarters. A month later, city planner Tracie Hughes brought an amendment before the board that would make the change, with several conditions, including that child care could only be offered in the area to employees, and only in a facility that did not house heavy industrial uses. But after almost an hour of discussion and comments from neighboring business owners and Osprey representative Lisa Bunker, the board voted unanimously to reject the amendment on the grounds that it would be too dangerous to allow children into the Industrial Park.
When the issue first came before the board, most of the members were in favor of it as a way to make life easier for Osprey’s employees, although they did point out several requirements that would have to be added to any proposed amendment. But on Tuesday, board member Rebecca Stephens Levy said she was opposed to the very idea of offering day care in the Industrial Park, no matter how many conditions were added. She provided no evidence of unhealthful exposure to chemicals or gas.
“The two uses, I think they’re completely incompatible,” she said. “More intensive uses, with noxious odors and gas and noise and hazardous chemicals are allowed, to a certain degree (in the Industrial Park) ... I don’t think we need to be putting kids there in the daytime.”
Chairman Danny Giannone said he was still in favor of the amendment at first, saying that although the Industrial Park isn’t an ideal location for a day care, it would be better than nothing for employees with children. Like in the last meeting, he pointed out that right now, affordable child care is almost nonexistent in Cortez.
“It’s normal in America to have dual-income families, and what do we do with the kids?” he said.
Dave and Lana Waters, owners of D&L Construction, which is also in Industrial Park, voiced their concern that a day care nearby could restrict their business, as well as others like them.
“I bought those lots because they were zoned industrial, and that’s what I expected to use them for,” Dave Waters said. “It’s not a great place for children.”
He questioned why Osprey wasn’t seeking to add a day care facility to its new building, currently under construction on Empire Street. He also brought an environment engineer, Nathan Barton, who gave a detailed presentation on the proposed amendment. Barton said his experience had showed him that child care and industrial zones don’t mix, and that he was concerned a day care facility would make it harder for new heavy industrial businesses to move into the area.
Bunker said her company was willing to make any changes necessary to ensure the day care facility would be safe for both children and businesses, but didn’t go into detail about what those changes might be.
Although the board was unanimous in their vote against the proposed amendment, several members said they still support the concept of offering day care services to company employees, and expressed their hope that Osprey could find a way to make it work in a different location.
“I’ll support the motion, but I’m sorry it’s going that way, because I think some things could have been worked out,” board member Tim Kline said before voting.