Juneau Considers Amending Land Use Code to Address Child Care Shortage

The Juneau Assembly is working on amending child care permit regulations in an effort to increase child care availability in Juneau.

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The Juneau Lands and Resources committee met Monday evening to push forward an amendment to the city’s land use code that would allow child care providers to care for more children. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/KTOO)
The Juneau Lands and Resources committee met Monday evening to push forward an amendment to the city’s land use code that would allow child care providers to care for more children. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/KTOO)

On Monday evening, the city’s Land and Resources committee forwarded an amendment that would change part of the land use code, allowing at-home child care facilities to take in 12 children instead of eight.

The Association for the Education of Young Children, or AEYC, provides resources and advocates quality child care in the Southeast. Coordinator Nikki Love says the organization is in full support of the amendment.

“There’s enough licensed care for 1 in 4, or 1 in 5 children, under the age of 5, so the need is really high,” Love said.

In the past few years waitlists have increased but remain at a steady rate, according to Love.

“We’d like to see a decrease in barriers to child care facilities and businesses in town since there is such a great need for child care, and changing the zoning would help open the door to potential businesses,” she said.

The amendment also provides a clear definition of child care home-facilities, requires at home providers to have sufficient parking and if state fencing requirements apply, the city may require the fence to meet neighborhood aesthetics.

If passed, the amendment would not affect any child care facilities currently operating.

The amendment is a part of a larger comprehensive plan to fix the child care crisis Juneau.

Gold Creek Child Development Director Gretchen Boone says she’s in favor of the permitting — the more childcare, the better.

Boone says the waitlist at Gold Creek has 75 children on it — the highest she’s ever seen it despite working at the facility for nearly two decades.

“Having more child care out there would benefit the entire community. There are families on our waitlist who have been on our waitlist for over a year and will probably never obtain space with us,” Boone said.

Lisa White, former owner of Little Bear Daycare, says she also had long waitlists.

“Usually by the time I would get back to some names they had long since found a place, but sometimes it would a year or two,” White said.

White cites over-regulation as the reason she closed her child care center in 2007.  Nearly finished with the re-licensing process she called it quits as a child care provider in Juneau after 17 years, a profession that she cherished.

While speaking about the lack of childcare in Juneau, White got emotional. She looks forward to the situation improving for Juneau’s families.

“It’s just going to keep getting worse unless they do something about it. There are all these families — they need this, and they don’t need this years from now, they need it years ago,” White said.

The amendment was forwarded on to the full assembly, and will be considered at a future meeting.