Dallas City Council votes to delay day care facility ordinance, says more resident input is needed
The Dallas City Council voted to delay the approval of a proposal that could reduce barriers to opening — and operating — child and adult day care facilities.
City staff told the council during Wednesday’s meeting that there is a critical need for more facilities in Dallas — and the current process for zoning and permitting them could pose a barrier for some potential operators.
The ordinance would remove some permitting requirements for day care operators — that staff says make it more difficult to open a facility — leaves onsite parking up to the operator and restricts the facilities to the same building height as residential neighborhoods.
“There are 93,000 children in the city of Dallas and we have capacity….in licensed day cares only for 35,000 children,” Planning and Urban Design Assistant Director Andreea Udrea said.
Udrea says that there are more than half of the city is considered a “child care desert.”
“This was a high motivator for us to consider the fact that there is a need in the City of Dallas and anything we can do to remove…the barriers for the operators, zoning being one of them, we want to be sensitive to that,” Udrea said.
But not everyone was in favor of the proposal. Debbie Solis is a West Dallas resident who showed up to speak out against the citywide zoning amendment.
“While I have worked in a day care and support the need for child care I am worried about the proposed changes,” Solis said. “I am concerned how the changes will negatively affect my community. We have problems now because some of our streets do not have sidewalks and are narrow.”
Solis says the poor infrastructure wouldn't lend itself well to a possible increase in day care facilities. She warned the council that they needed to take parking concerns into consideration as well.
“Day care facilities need parking requirements for their clients and workers. Drive around West Dallas and you will understand why we are so concerned,” Solis said.
And Solis wasn’t the only one who had hesitation on approving the zoning proposal.
District 14 Council Member Paul Ridley submitted a motion to delay the ordinance until early 2024.
“To allow the staff to gather additional data,” Ridley said. “And also because there has been an outpouring of emails from people in residential neighborhoods saying they weren’t aware of this coming down and they would like additional time to consider its implications.”
Along with Ridley District 6 Council Member Omar Narvaez and District 12 Council Member Cara Mendelson agreed with a delay.
“The point of the motion to delay is really that we haven’t done sufficient community input,” Mendelson said. “I don’t think we have heard from the public.”
But several council members — and city staff — say its time to move the amendments along.
“I don’t know what 60 days is going to tell us that we already don’t know. You either support this or you don’t,” District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua said. “I think its important for us to weigh out using delays as a tactic to ultimately kill something or just speaking against it because you don’t agree with the merit.”
Bazaldua said the proposal had already gone through three governing bodies — including the Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee.
“I can tell you that I am not here to kill something, I know that we need child care and I’m not even a parent,” Narvaez said. “I am here to make sure that this is proper and right. You heard from just a few constituents that had questions. Not a lot of questions — but they’re good questions.”
"I don't see this as an ordinance against neighborhoods," District 1 Council Member Chad West said. "This is an ordinance for those who need child care, cannot obtain child care now because there is not enough facilities, there's not enough access to it in their neighborhoods."
West said he has personally dealt with the effects of a lack of facilities — especially when his two children were younger.
“I think it’s a pretty well-known fact that we have a very aging population,” Planning and Urban Design Interim Director Andrea Gilles said. “We have limited opportunities for adult care.”
The council voted 8-7 in favor of the deferral and is scheduled to discuss the issue again in 2024.
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