Churches, nonprofits, fire stations and many other institutions can now temporarily offer daycare in the Town of Vienna.
The Vienna Town Council met last Wednesday (Aug. 19) to approve an emergency zoning ordinance that eliminates hurdles to new childcare services. The ordinance will allow commercially- and industrially-zoned properties and public, semi-public and private institutions to offer daycare.
“I think this is going to be really great for the businesses that want to try this,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.
Previously, the town only allowed residential properties to get conditional use permits for daycare, Kelly O’Brien of the town’s Planning and Zoning Department said.
Now, places like businesses, churches and nonprofits can temporarily bypass the town’s typical procedures and restrictions on daycare.
O’Brien said that the temporary ordinance stemmed from a local business’s requests to provide emergency childcare — an urgent need in the town and Fairfax County as many schools in the area switch to fully virtual learning this fall.
Roughly half of the respondents to a Tysons Reporter poll in mid-July said that childcare is a concern for them once summer ends.
Because it’s an emergency temporary zoning ordinance, Town Attorney Steve Briglia said that the proposal, which will last for 60 days, did not need to get approval from the town’s Planning Commission.
Briglia said that the town staff will immediately advertise to readopt the ordinance, and the readopted ordinance would last until Jan. 31, 2021.
“We’ll know well before then whether the schools are going to be in session for the second semester. If they are, we won’t really need this,” Briglia said. “If they are going to be further suspended, we’ll have plenty of time to readopt and modify this as you feel fit.”
Vienna businesses and institutions looking to offer childcare will still need to meet the health and safety regulations set by Fairfax County and comply with state regulations for daycare facilities, Briglia said.
When new Councilmember Ed Somers asked why the town hadn’t previously allowed more places to offer daycare, O’Brien said she wasn’t sure, but that the town does plan to get community feedback on the idea for the long-term.
Councilmember Ray Brill Jr. said that competition with home-based daycare could be the reason, while Councilmember Chuck Anderson said that daycare has changed over the decades.
“It seems like a logical thing to do,” Somers said.
Image via Town of Vienna