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Day Care Capacity Hearing Set for March

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors may raise capacity limit to 12 children by special permit, but by-right limit will stay at seven.

Fairfax County officials aren’t budging on the number of children a home day care facility is allowed to care for—at least, not without a special permit.

The Commonwealth of Virginia allows for up to 12 children in a licensed day care, but Fairfax County ordinances allow for only seven.

Providers can apply for a special permit that allows for a maximum of 10—still a few children less than Virginia allows.

The county law was rarely enforced, prompting many providers to take in a dozen kids, as allowed by their state licenses. But new state regulations that require formal documentation from zoning officials will have many providers applying for special permits, so the Board is proposing raising the permit limit to 12 children.

During its meeting Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to advertise a public hearing on the permit issues in March, per their discussion in committee earlier this month.

But they killed a motion from Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) to raise the number of children a provider can have in a single-family home from seven to 10.

Herrity and Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) were the only ones to support it.

The cost for a permit is expected to be between $435 and $1,100 and the process could take up to year, county staff said.

Herrity argued the county would risk losing providers that could not afford to pay the fees or decrease their roles without the permit. He was concerned the county wouldn’t have the necessary resources to deal with a major influx of hundreds of applications in the coming months.

“I personally think we need to raise the by-right number,” he said. “I think we’re going to end up chasing childcare providers out of the license process.”

He also feared some providers would operate illegally without a permit.

"I just think it's important that we end up at the low end of the fee," Herrity said after his motion was killed.

But Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) clarified no actions to enforce the regulations would be taken if providers applied for proper paperwork. He encouraged providers to “do the right thing” and file for special permits if their roles were already over the limit.

“The minute they file their special permit, any type of enforcement action on behalf of the county ceases,” he said.

Staff members also said they would hold off enforcement during the time it took for an application to process.

After the March hearing before the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors will hold a separate public hearing scheduled for May.

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