District Mulls Policy Change on Child Care

child care

Since she started the Everyday Magic Children’s Centre in 2011, Andrea Zander has been getting an average of 5-7 calls every week, some from as far as Britannia Beach. Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan 23, 2015

Andrea Zander would be surprised if she didn’t get any calls or messages or Facebook messages this week asking her about space available in her child care centre in Valleycliffe.

Since she started the Everyday Magic Children’s Centre in 2011, she’s been getting an average of 5-7 calls every week, some from as far as Britannia Beach.

“There is an unbelievable need for childcare in Squamish, especially for children under the age of three,” she says.

Zander is legally allowed to care for eight children, from the age of 0-12, but the need for child care under three is immense, she says.

“The parents are sometimes panicked as they are looking for space for younger children, especially under three,” she said.

With current district regulation, child care providers can only provide care to up to eight children at any given time. But child care providers want the district to change that to help solve the problem of finding suitable child care in the community, especially in the infant to toddler category.

At a recent council meeting, district staff acknowledged that zoning and economics restrict the provision of better child care services in Squamish. The district found that smaller child care facilities do not provide significant revenue and current zoning prohibits larger child care facilities in residential areas.

That is among the issues that Bobbie Jo Bergstorm faces. Bergstrom runs the Eagle View child care in Brackendale from her own home, while she lives on a rental property a few blocks away.

Bergstrom says she has tried several times to relocate her child care space into commercial space, but hasn’t been successful. If the district changes the zoning, she plans to open a day care in the upper portion of her home.

The staff brought forward two options and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

In the first option, the maximum number of children allowed in a residential child would go from eight to 16. This would allow the operators to expand the business without having to go through a rezoning application.

One problem with this approach is the potential impact to neighbourhood residents as this would increase traffic and cause congestion during drop-off and pick up times.

The second option is to let a proposed child care in a residential area go through the process of a zoning change and public hearing. Such a requirement would allow the council to assess the impact to the neighbourhood.  

The disadvantage, however, is the added cost and time and burden on the application for getting the property rezoned. Changing the bylaw to allow more children in residential day care would help several local families, Zander says.

On concerns over parking, Zander said the timing for pick up is mostly scattered and many parents even walk to the day care.

“Currently, many families have to choose unlicensed, unregulated childcare due to lack of spaces available,” she adds.