Council approves downtown daycare after lengthy, contentious public hearing

Children’s Circle Daycare Society has a new home on McMurdo Drive and work to build its new facility will begin in the next two months.

The non-profit is being displaced from one of its two daycare locations, 904 Third Ave., at the end of the year, due to Royal Inland Hospital’s expansion.

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“We’re ecstatic,” Chidren’s Circle Daycare Society transition manager Wenda Noonan told KTW after the decision, noting the process has been lengthy.

“We just want shovels in the ground.”

The decision came after a marathon public hearing on Tuesday night, attended by 70 people.

Council voted seven to one in favour of rezoning property at 1430 Ninth Ave. and 1050 McMurdo Dr. to pave way for the commercial daycare facility. The project is a partnership between the City of Kamloops, Arpa Investments and the society and included a land swap deal for property in Valleyview next to McCracken Station Pub, which Arpa had previously eyed for the daycare.

On hand Tuesday, parents and children came out in support of the project. Nearly 50 people wore yellow “Children’s Circle Daycare Society” pins and some shared tales of childcare gaps in town.

“I was lucky enough to find this daycare, Children’s Circle, which a lot of parents don’t have that choice. They have to leave their kids with complete strangers who, as I found, would take some kid to a pool that’s unlicensed and you have no choice or you sit at home,” one parent told council.

“When I found out I was pregnant for a second time, I put my son on the list three days after I found out I was pregnant because I knew there was a wait time. I waited probably a year and a half until I could get in there [Children’s Circle] because I trust these ladies. I have friends who are still on wait lists three years later.”

The Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association took issue with the project location, not unlike its stance on a previous social housing project pitched for the area, which it also opposed.

The association previously told KTW and the society it was in favour of the daycare project, but changed its tune prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Association representative Carman Anne Schulz presented to council myriad community concerns — traffic, parking, loss of park space and trail access and health and safety of children.

Though the entrance to a nearby ridge trail will be redone, access through the park space to an alleyway that connects to a trail network will be lost due to the project, as will some of the space where local dog owners are known to frequent.

In addition, the area has become increasingly busy with school of choice Kamloops School of the Arts, Schulz explained, as parents drive children in and out of the neighbourhood from other areas of town.

She requested the city conduct a traffic study and suggested a roundabout at Ninth Avenue and Fraser Street to mitigate speed.

Schulz said she also wonders about increasing congestion at Sixth Avenue in the mornings, an area that is already busy, with another 120 kids and 30 staff. Finally, Schulz pointed to health concerns of placing a daycare facility in front of the increasingly busy four-lane Trans Canada Highway.

“The health and welfare of developing children’s lungs is at risk,” she said.

Noonan, however, told council the society is more concerned about smoke from two recent summers than highway traffic and noted most areas in town are located near highways. She said the society has planned for upgraded ventilation. And upon weighing the arguments, council trumped need for the facility over neighbourhood concerns.

“It’s not a perfect proposal, but these families have been forced out of their daycare,” Coun. Kathy Sinclair said.

“And I believe that looking at all of the options, this is the best option and I believe that the neighbourhood will come to embrace this daycare. I can see some potential issues with traffic, that could be monitored. I think overall, the good of this project far outweighs any negatives.”

Mayor Ken Christian added that just over half of the daycare’s children are currently from the downtown area, he expects the daycare to become a facility used by the neighbourhood over time.

Voting in favour were Christian and councillors Sinclair, Dale Bass, Sadie Hunter, Mike O’Reilly, Bill Sarai and Arjun Singh. Coun. Dieter Dudy was absent and Coun. Denis Walsh voted against.

“I think this is the wrong location,” he said. “I have grandkids who live up there. It’s a bloody zoo up there between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and this will add to the problem.”

Developer Joshua Knaak said shovels will be in the ground in between six to eight weeks, with the goal of completing the daycare in about one year’s time. In the meantime, Children’s Circle is celebrating the rezoning win, but still has hurdles to climb in looking for a temporary home during construction.

“We haven’t found a permanent accommodation as of yet. That’s what we’re woking on. Our lease ends Dec. 31 across from the hospital. We are in the process of finding another location and we’ll stay there for a year.”

© Kamloops This Week



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