Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 04 March 2011 00:00
The Mineola Village Board raised a slew of questions at its last public hearing over an application to expand the Learn & Play day care facility on Herricks Road in Mineola.
Arthur Smyles owns the property and it was initially used for party sales and rentals until he was granted a special use permit for the day care facility. Smyles also owns the adjacent dollar store, where the proposed expansion would be located. According to architect Anthony Dei Properizo, the two buildings combined represent 21,084 sq. ft. of floor space with 14,236 sq. ft. for the day care and 6,848 sq. ft. for the dollar store.
“There’s a major shortage of space for toddlers and infants,” in New York State, Smiles said, explaining he has to either turn parents away or put them on a long waiting list.
The facility is open to infants as young as six weeks, and toddlers from 2 1/2 up to 4 1/2 years of age. The building is currently set up to house approximately 207 children with 180 children currently in attendance, some of which only attend part-time.
Smyles said it was hard to estimate an exact number because he has a mix of part-time and full-time day care. He stated that there were about 16 infants enrolled at the center.
Approximately 40 of the day care facility’s teachers are full and part-time, but Smyles used the label liberally, saying the director and greeter were teachers.
Mayor Larry Werther questioned Smyles about the number of parking spots, noting there were only 26 total spaces on the property.
“We’re talking potentially 60 staff members, even if 80 percent of them are there at the same time, you’re going to have substantially more staff members than you’re going to have parking spots,” Werther said. “On top of that you’re going to have parents coming in to drop off their children.”
Smyles responded by saying that that dropping children off was not a problem, but Werther disagreed, as did the rest of the board.
According to Smyles, the facility operates “stack parking,” and parent’s come in and either drop off or pick up within a five minute window.
“The math just doesn’t work with the parking spots in my opinion right now,” Werther said. “The stack parking part concerns me even more because if there is a fire or an emergency situation the fire engine would have difficulty getting in there, I’ve got difficulty believing an ambulance would be able to get in there.”
Trustee Paul Cusato said that he had earlier tried to simulate a drop off/pick up situation and could not complete a three-point turn and was forced to back up and out of the property. Smyles blamed the situation on the snow pile up.
“It’s taking up a lot of the parking spaces,” he said, as well as customers for his other store. “We’ve never had a problem with parents coming and going. It’s the problem with the shoppers.” Cusato was visibly frustrated by Smyles explanation, citing fire and general safety issues that he said would hinder this application regardless of snow issues or not.
Trustee Scott Strauss wondered if Smyles had shared an evacuation plan for the facility, saying as a former fire chief, he could not remember ever seeing a copy of a plan when he was with the Mineola Fire Department. Smyles said that an evacuation plan exists and Strauss requested it be sent to the fire department.
Trustee Paul Pereira found Smyles to be seemingly unprepared for the presentation, conceding that the property has undergone changes due to the Herricks Road underpass but echoed the other trustees’ concerns about parking.
“The previous approval for the day care there was probably somehow tied to the fact that the adjacent building was ‘off’ in terms of its hours of operation, therefore compensating for the lack of parking,” he said, referring to the dollar store’s former configuration as a billiard hall.
“If you’ve been in business there for 12 years and you own another day care center, I believe your presentation should be more polished and the information should be accurate and not in roundabout terms. These terms should be concrete.”
“Maybe I should have had an engineer (come),” Smyles admitted.
Following a brief recess, Smyles requested to come back after conducting a parking and traffic study for the proposed expansion as well as emergency access plan. The board had discussed during the recess in proposing Smyles a “second go” at the application.
“I’d like a copy of the permit license and certainly on the next hearing night, I’d like your director here or the person who is in charge of the daily operations of the day care center,” Werther concluded.
A tentative hearing date was set for some time in April.