Montgomery County planners, who have been criticized for often turning down requests to put day-care centers in private residences, are studying the possibility of using park facilities for privately run day-care centers.
"Recreational facilities are not used that much during work hours," planning board member Judith B. Heimann said this week. "We need to provide day care in appropriate locations near the home, and this may be a good alternative."
The planning board voted last week to appropriate $18,595 for the study, which will be conducted by Gail Price of the planning staff with the aid of hired consultants. She said the study is part of a countywide effort to increase the amount of day care offered in Montgomery.
The planning department as well as the school and social services departments have been asked to study day-care options this year and adopt policies designed to increase the number of facilities available to county residents, she said.
Price said that the planning board study would look into the feasibility of putting portable classrooms on park land, hooking them up with water and utility lines and then renting them to operators of private day-care centers.
"This is not meant to replace residential houses or churches as a site for day care," she said. "But it's looking at another potential for sites because there is such a tremendous demand for day care in the county."
The study will determine whether the county should rent the centers at market rates or at a public subsidy that would allow the county to stipulate that children from low-income families be taken in as well, Price said.
She said she also will study what impact the day-care centers would have on employes of the county parks department, whether the centers would create more administrative and janitorial work, and whether they would interfere with park activities.
Day-care centers for up to six children can be set up in private homes in Montgomery County without obtaining a permit, according to county reports.
Centers with more children require a special exception permit from the county planning board and must adhere to a set of regulations mandating playground size, the number of parking spaces and the amount of space needed per child. The county law also stipulates that the center must be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
But county planners say it is difficult to find a private house suitable for a day-care center for more than six children.