Hearing leaves day-care in limbo

After 90 minutes testimony, Carson City Planning commissioners said Wednesday they weren't ready to decide whether the Little Tykes Child Care Center could move next door.

Day-care owner Carrie Hansen is seeking a permit to move her business from 2109 Roop St. to her home at 2117 Roop St.

Commissioners wanted to gather more information on the viability of the permit next door at 2109 Roop St. where Little Tykes now operates under a lease agreement.

The existing permit was awarded to property owners Ronald and Beverly Gutzman in 1991 and is attached to the property. Now such permits are awarded to a business owner and become null if that business closes or moves.

During the meeting, issues of child safety, legal contracts, department policy and more muddied the issue.

At its basic level, the question before the commission was whether to award Hansen a permit to operate that would be in competition with the existing permit next door.

A city ordinance prohibits allowing a child-care facility to operate within 500 feet of another child care facility in residential neighborhoods. Because the Gutzmans could continue to use their property as a day-care center, the planning commission staff recommended denial of the permit.

"This was a difficult staff report to write," Associate Planner Jennifer Pruitt said, commending Hansen for her preparation and willingness to work with the department on alternatives.

The Health Department entered the picture with concerns about the physical condition of the current property Hansen leases from the Gutzmans, who operated a day-care themselves in the early '90s. Pealing exterior paint in the play area, water leaks and a private well that has not been checked for many years, were the most serious problems.

Then the question became whether the property was in violation of the permit and could be revoked.

According to Hansen, she repeatedly made requests to the landlord to deal with the leaks and paint problems and began using bottled water as soon as she realized the property had well water, about three years ago.

Ronald Gutzman said most of the issues were Hansen's responsibility according to the commercial lease she signed. He only heard there was a question about the well a couple weeks ago.

Health Department representative Daren Winkelman said the department policy is to work with the business owner rather than property owner on such issues. He also said the well had not been tested recently even though it's under special requirements because of the number of users.

"We have no record of any tests," he said, admitting the property had fallen between the cracks.

New testing by the state, as required, would cost Gutzman about $7,500. As a home, no testing is required.

Hansen admitted to a poor business decision in signing a lease she didn't understand after she had already moved in. She added that the exterior wall has mold and rot, which is why she did not paint it herself.

She also appealed to the commissioners to remember the children and the shortage of child-care facilities in the area. Without the permit, she would have to find another another job and parents would be without quality child care.

Parents of Little Tykes students filed forward to express support for Hansen while their children played and squirmed in the background. Many parents cried at the idea Little Tykes might close.

Gutzman also considers Little Tykes a quality center.

"She's got a hangup with me, but she runs a good day care. I don't want to cut her down, I just want to have her follow the lease," he said following the meeting.

"This thing's coming to a head because she wants to take my special-use permit and take it next door."

Hansen, whose lease is not up until November, agreed to postpone a decision on her request for a permit.

The commissioners asked the planning commission staff to examine whether the Gutzman property was in violation of the permit and whether an exception could be made to the 500-foot rule considering Roop Street's status as a major artery.

"The street is so unique," said Commissioner Richard Wipfli. "I'd like the staff and attorney to look at the code and see if there's a way to massage the code."


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