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Hartselle delays child group home ordinance vote

By Deangelo McDaniel
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Following a public hearing and a lengthy debate, the Planning Commission voted to table an ordinance that would permit child group homes in Hartselle.

The Department of Human Resources regulates these homes that allow a homeowner to keep up to 12 children. The current day-care ordinance only permits the homeowner to keep six children.

After almost an hour of talking about hypothetical situations Tuesday, the unanimous commission agreed to delay sending the ordinance to the City Council for final approval.

"This is a lot of stuff to consider," commission member Larry Hannah said.

His comments came after the commission heard comments for and against the ordinance. Sybil Culberson owns Bullfrogs and Butterflies, a child development center on Midway Street. She opposed the ordinance.

Culberson argued that group homes should be required to do what she did when she opened her business almost seven years ago.

"If I want to double the number of children I keep, I have to go out and spend money," she said.

Culberson wants the commission to require all child group homes to be in commercial districts.

"If you start doing this, where does it stop?" she said. "Can I close my business and move to my home?"

Marg Peterson, who asked the commission more than a month ago for the ordinance, has a home day care on Garner Road and she came with a different message.

Peterson said there is a huge need for home daycare in Hartselle. She looked to Culberson and said, "You can have many, many more in your center than I can have in my home."

Peterson said she has a waiting list and that's why she wants to start a child group home. She said Hartselle has unregulated home daycares because parents want their children in a smaller environment.

Peterson had a signed letter from about 25 parents supporting the ordinance, but the board did not review the letter.

She pleaded with the commission to pass the ordinance "so I can help give children a safer environment."

Chairman Tom Chappell said the commission is trying to pass an ordinance that is good for Hartselle, but noted that the commission has to consider the impact on neighbors.

According to city records, Hartselle has issued business licenses to eight home day cares.

Commission member Bill Lee said he worries about neighbors.

"Quite frankly, I wouldn't want to live next door to you with six additional children," he told Peterson.

Jeff Johnson of the Department of Development said no one has complained about noise from children playing outside.

He also pointed out that the Board of Zoning Adjustment would have to authorize each child group home, even if the commission and council passed the ordinance.

"If there were any opposition from neighbors, they could express it at the Board of Zoning Adjustment," Johnson said.

City Planner Jeremy Griffith said the proposed ordinance mirrors Decatur's, which includes mostly DHR regulations.

"We can adopt more stringent regulations, but they can't be less than what DHR requires," Griffith said.

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