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MISSION VIEJO : City Establishes Rules on Day-Care Centers

The City Council has established its right to regulate large child-care centers in residential neighborhoods.

Although council members last week disagreed on whether to ban swimming pools from day-care centers, the ordinance setting a permit process for operators who watch seven to 12 children was passed on a 3-2 vote.

Day-care operators who already have pools will continue to be able to stay in business as long as they follow state requirements to install pool covers and locking gates. New applications for nursery homes with pools will be rejected under the new city law.

Pushing for an outright ban on pools, Mayor Robert D. Breton voted against the ordinance.

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Child-care advocates had told the council that under state law, cities can’t regulate swimming pools in residential day-care centers.

“While I understand the concern about swimming pools and day-care centers, I also understand that the state regulates these safety concerns,” said Sharlotte Scott, a Mission Viejo day-care operator and member of the Orange County Child Care Assn. “I feel the city should have a lawful ordinance.”

However, City Attorney Peter M. Thorson told the council that the state allows cities to deal with safety issues in large day-care centers. Breton asked Thorson to research the legal issues and report back to the council by the Dec. 13 meeting.

As part of the permit process, day-care operators will be required to pay a $400 permit fee.

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Other requirements include:

* No large day-care center is to be within 300 feet of another large day-care center.

* Driveways are to be kept clear of cars belonging to the homeowner or any employee to provide easy access by parents dropping off or picking up their children.

* A public hearing for new day-care centers will be held so neighbors can be notified and have a chance to respond to city officials.


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