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Sunnyside Board of Adjustment OK's 24-hour day care

With no public comment in opposition, the city of Sunnyside's Board of Adjustment last night approved a 24-hour children's day care service.

The proponents, Antonio and Carolina Alvarez, received a conditional use permit in 2003 for a day care at 804 Decatur Ave. Under restrictions of that permit, the day care was to close at 7 p.m. in the summer and 6 p.m. in the winter.

The application for a revised conditional use permit allowing a 24-hour operation came after the city received a complaint that the day care was open all night. That, in turn, required the Alvarez family to curtail their business hours to meet conditions stated in the original conditional use permit.

City Planner Jamey Ayling told the board he wasn't sure how the complaint originated. Board secretary Pam Sandifer said she thought the complaint was filed by another nearby day care center.

Regardless of where the complaint came from, the impact on those commenting last night was unmistakable.

"I work during the day and take night classes at YVCC," Maricruz Gomez told the board. "I have to leave my classes early in order to pick up my kids before the day care closes."

Joaquin Maciel described for the board the ordeal he and his girlfriend go through each day to find care for her grandchildren.

"I work out of the area most of the week and she works all night. It's a hardship on us to try to find licensed care overnight," he said.

A Jack in the Box manager, Maria Rocha, noted the restaurant is open 24 hours a day. "Sometimes they call me in to work at night but I can't because there's no place to take my kids," she said.

The board was sympathetic to the families' plight.

"There's definitely a need for 24-hour care," observed board member Rick Berk. "The only question in my mind is the impacts to neighbors."

Ayling said notice of the meeting was sent out to all neighboring property owners within 300 feet of the day care center. He added that there are few houses in the area and that no complaints were received about the proposal.

"Since it's overnight care the children will be inside sleeping, so there shouldn't be a disturbance because there won't be any children playing outside," Ayling said.

Board member Chad Werkhoven expressed some hesitance on overnight care, and again asked Ayling if there were any complaints or concerns expressed by neighbors.

When it was confirmed there were no complaints, Werkhoven noted with a shrug. "If it wasn't a big enough concern for the person who filed the original complaint to be here, then I have no objections."

Berk and board Chair Craig Miller noted that if the day care went to 24-hour service it would need to meet DSHS standards, which state children are not to be in day care for longer than 12 hours in a single day.

Ayling added that when DSHS inspects the day care, the agency will make surprise inspections during evening and early morning hours to ensure compliance.

The board then voted unanimously to approve the 24-hour day care, a decision met with a standing ovation from the 20 or 30 moms, dads and kids in attendance.

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