January 27, 2023

Council advances proposed childcare amendment to Planning Board

By Ed Pierce

Members of the Windham Town Council have voted to send the Windham Planning Board an item for a proposed amendment allowing a childcare facility in the Route 202 corridor in the Windham Center area.

The Windham Town Council sent a proposed amendment
regarding childcare zoning to the Windham Planning Board
for review and a public hearing at its next meeting in
The Windham Raymond School Age Child Care Program asked councilors to advance the proposal so that the Planning Board could schedule a public hearing on the matter at its next meeting. The non-profit childcare program recently purchased a 2.5-acre parcel on Pope Road near the junction of Route 202 and has an opportunity to apply for a Start Up Facility Child Care Grant from the state which could assist with startup costs of up to $250,000.

The grant application needs to include a letter on file by March 1 saying that the town has approved the facility’s location.

As a non-profit, the Windham Raymond School Age Child Care Program currently operates a before/after school childcare program and currently exceeds the State of Maine’s childcare licensing requirements.

In a letter to councilors, program officials say that the ever-growing need for quality childcare in not only the Windham community but other surrounding communities, led to the organization making a commitment to expand to offer care for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children.

The grant application requires land for new facilities be identified and the town in which the land is located must verify via a letter that a childcare center can be built on the land.

Childcare facilities are currently allowed by the town in an overlay within the portions of the Farm and Farm-Residential Zoning Districts and located in proximity to Gray Road between Roosevelt Trail and Swett Road. The new facility would require a zoning change.

“We understand there are several possibilities for zoning changes. The Windham Center zone ordinance change which could be several months out including contract zoning where the timing would also be too close to call for the grant application, and a change to existing zoning in a business corridor for daycare center use,” Windham Raymond School Age Child Care wrote to the town council. “We would ask that the existing zoning law be amended to allow for a zone change in a business corridor for daycare center use within 800 feet of Route 202.”

The town’s Planning Board is responsible for reviewing and approving all conditional use applications in the overlay zone. Requirements would include adhering to a maximum building size of 7,000 square feet, a review of design guidelines, a pitched roof use of traditional, high-quality building materials, including brick, clapboard, shingles, or other similar projects as the primary siding material. Buildings and parking areas must be properly screened from adjoining residential properties located at the side and rear of the property.

The childcare program wrote to the council that a new childcare center with proximity to local schools will help ease childcare needs and assist those families with multiple children for drop off and pick up.

“Our plan is for one building with a fenced-in playground, and parking area as required by town. This building could house from 50 to 75 children, depending on state licensing requirements with typical business operating hours during the Monday to Friday work week and full day operations, the surrounding neighbors should experience very limited/no nighttime or weekend impacts,” program officials wrote. “As of now, we have the land and plans for our building. We are ready to start the financial process with or without the grant, but the grant would certainly help with this startup endeavor. We need this zoning change before we can go further with the grant application process.”

Windham Planning Director Amanda Lessard said should the Planning Board approve the project after the public hearing and discussion, all applicable permits and a review would need to be obtained like with any other project in Windham.

Councilors voted to advance the proposed amendment to the Planning Board meeting on Feb. 13. <

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