The building that once housed a nightclub located at the back of the Days Inn hotel, photographed in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, is the site of a new proposed daycare. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Potential new daycare causes concern for city council

“I’m just wondering is this an appropriate place to be raising our children here in the City of Whitehorse”

Whitehorse city council has questions about a proposed daycare whose owners want to locate downtown.

During the standing committees meeting on Nov. 19, acting senior planner Kinden Kosick told council a proposed daycare is looking for a zoning amendment so it can open in a former nightclub located at the Days Inn hotel, which is zoned commercial.

“The city’s official community plan promotes childcare centres in many of our commercial zones, in fact all of our commercial zones,” said Kosick. “And this is an area that’s downtown, it’s close to several parks including Shipyards Park as well as parks on the escarpment, and it’s in an area of employment where parents can take advantage of a childcare centre that’s close to where they are potentially working.”

Kosick told council that, in addition to using nearby parks for recreation, the owners plan to have a large indoor play area and an outdoor area of 56 square meters, complete with astroturf, sand and a four-foot fence, for kids to play outside on the south-facing side of the building.

He said the owners, who also operate Love-to-Learn-Daycare in Riverdale, have a 15-passenger van they plan to use to shuttle kids to offsite playgrounds.

Still, Coun. Jan Stick said she was worried there wouldn’t be enough outdoor access for kids attending the daycare.

“We’re talking one to five-year olds they’re not going to be walking to Shipyards Park and if you look at this, there’s no green space anywhere close to this and so, I understand the van and stuff, but I’m just concerned that more and more daycares are being put into, are allowed into spaces where there’s just no outdoor appropriate play area.”

Lesley Gardiner-Falle, a supervisor with the Department of Health and Social Service’s childcare services branch, told the News there is no requirement in the Yukon for daycares to have onsite outdoor play space. She said there must be access provided to outdoor play space, but that it can be either onsite or off.

She also cited a host of regulations that must be met for a childcare centre (located outside a home) or a family dayhome (located inside a home) to be licensed, including meeting zoning regulations, building standard regulations, firecode, and electrical and gas regulations.

As well, she said staff have to have RCMP checks completed, and the operator must submit proof of insurance, a proposed budget, and, in the case of non-profits, a copy of the constitution and bylaws.

Once a business is licensed, Gardiner-Falle said a childcare inspector is assigned to the file to complete onsite inspections every four to six weeks. During inspections, they are looking for staff qualifications, child-to-staff ratios, medical health and safety standards, programming, behaviour management practices in programs and parental involvement.

Kosick said staff had spoken to childcare services about the application and that the department had “no outstanding concerns and no red flags on what was being proposed.”

Coun. Laura Cabott said that, while she does think the city needs more daycares, she echoed Stick’s point about outdoor access, and said she had “serious concerns” about the location of the proposed centre.

“This is an auto-oriented area, heavy traffic already,” she said. “It is commercial use and, you know, let’s call a spade a spade – these are young children and those parks that you set out here are a very long way away. Those kids are not walking there.”

The proposed daycare is located 500 meters from an existing daycare on the same street.

Cabott said the addition of a van shuttling kids around, as well as parents dropping off and picking up kids, would congest an already-congested area. She also worried about a daycare operating in a former nightclub.

“This is a hotel,” said Cabott. “This is a former nightclub where the actual daycare centre is going to be and I’m just wondering is this an appropriate place to be raising our children here in the City of Whitehorse, the wilderness city.”

The site is the former home of Club 867.

Cabott asked Kosick if city staff could speak with childcare specialists about whether this was a proper venue for a daycare centre. Kosick said administration would investigate.

Kosick also told Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu that administration would ask Love-to-Learn if it had a waitlist, and whether any of those parents would be open to enrolling their kids at the new location.

He told Coun. Steve Roddick that city staff have seen three zoning amendment applications for daycares in the last 14 months. As population in Whitehorse grows, he said he thinks it’s safe to say there will be increased demand for daycares in different areas of the city.

Gardiner-Falle said there are currently 32 childcare centres and 21 family dayhomes in Whitehorse, offering a total of 1,236 spaces for childcare, though Gardiner-Falle noted availability fluctuates.

She said she could not comment on whether or not there is need of additional spaces.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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