City Council adopted a bill on Thursday that will modify the regulations for opening new group daycare centers in certain areas of the city. The bill, which was introduced by Councilman Brian O’Neill, who represents Northeast Philadelphia’s 10th District, was recommended by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission after significant amendments were made in Council’s Rules Committee.
The origins of the bill are obscure, as are its details. Essentially, it requires applicants for Group Daycare centers (7-12 children) in certain zoning classifications to obtain a variance, rather than a special exception, the latter of which is an easier burden to meet under the zoning code. In its original form, the bill applied to quite a few residential zoning classifications. Some daycare operators balked, and after an amendment approved by committee, the change will apply to a much narrower set of zoning districts.
Under the terms of the bill, variances will be required for Group Daycare uses in all single-family detached-house districts and most single-family attached districts (RSD-1 through RSA-4). A special exception will be required for high-density attached districts (RSA-5) and all multi-family residential districts.
When seeking a variance, applicants are supposed to show that they have a legitimate hardship that prevents them from using their property in a way that conforms to the zoning code. For a special exception, the burden is on the opposition to show that the proposed use would be especially harmful to the community.
After the committee hearing earlier this month, O’Neill told PlanPhilly he became aware of the issue when a group daycare was trying to open in Bustleton in an area that used to require a variance for such uses under the old code.
The change is not limited to the Northeast.
Also on Thursday, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown introduced a bill that would eliminate the fees for group day care applicants who are going to the zoning board.