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Commission Backs Marin Horizon’s Toddler Program on Miller Ave.

Neighbors opposed the plan to open a day care facility, calling the unanimous decision “off the wall” and saying, “We do not need 18 children yelling and screaming.”

Are the sounds of 18 2- and 3-year-old children adorable or a nuisance?

That’s one of the issues that came up this week as the Mill Valley Planning Commission unanimously approved Marin Horizon School’s plan to move its toddler day care program from its Homestead Valley campus to a two-story office building at 247 Miller Avenue.

“I love children,” said John Goggin, a resident of the multi-unit residential building adjacent to 247 Miller, a late 1890s-era, Victorian-era building. “But taking a residential community like ours and subjecting it to 18 children coming and going twice a day with all of their cars and them playing just outside my window is not acceptable. It’s just not a good place to put a preschool.”

The Montessori-based toddler care program will include 18 students and three teachers Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., then drop down to 12 students and two teachers from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Kids will be on the first floor, and staff would use the second floor as office space. An outdoor play area will be be built in the back.

The commission first heard Marin Horizon’s plan at its Sept. 24 meeting, turning the hearing into a study session because of concerns about insufficient public notice. In the session, commissioners expressed concerns about the project’s parking plan and a plan to remove nine large trees because they’re interfering with power lines. School officials amended their plans to address those concerns.

Joan Frasson-Sudmann, owner of the adjacent 251 Miller residential building, said most of her residents opposed the project.

“It seems like it’s going to be a huge problem for us,” she said. “The traffic on Miller is really going to be horrendous, and there will be fumes from the cars running while the pickups and drop-offs are occurring.”

When other neighbors expressed concerns about parking, school officials noted that a traffic monitor would be on site each weekday to make sure parents didn’t use an adjacent parking lot and to prevent traffic backups. The commission added some conditions of approval for additiona landscaping to further lessen the facility’s impact on its neighbors.

Hannelore Barnes, a Homestead Valley resident and Marin Horizon parent, said school officials would go out of their way to make sure the concerns of neighbors were addressed.

“But I really have to question what kind of world we’re living in when we’re talking about the sound of children playing as a nuisance,” she said.

Commissioner Barbara Chambers agreed.

“I can’t believe the voices of 2- and 3-year-old would tower over the traffic on Miller,” she said. “And I’m a little bit surprised at the objections to the noise of children. At that age they are so adorable. This is the perfect place for a daycare school.”

Frasson-Sudmann was unconvinced, calling the commission's decision "off the wall."

"We do not need 18 children yelling and screaming," she said. "You don’t know what you’re talking about."

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Mari October 25, 2012 at 11:39 PM
and to clarify - as far as my opinion goes - Hanne, I don't think you are "evil." I watched the video of the planning commission and it seemed to me that the neighbors who spoke up against the project were being judged. I just don't understand why anyone would judge the people who want to protect the serenity of their homes as evil or being "child haters." That is what happened to the folks on Evergreen - and this looks to be happening again in this situation. Joan - if you and your neighbors decide to appeal, maybe you should just try to convince the school to move the playground to the front. I guess it depends upon how invested they are in the current design. In the sidewalk situation, there was a lot of incorrect information floating around - there still is. I have friends who may be able to help the school build a natural playground. I can refer you and or the school - anyone is welcome to contact me through my website : http://www.marimackmusic.com Please excuse me because I have a full plate and I'm quite frankly, tired of getting hit from all sides! Best of luck to everyone in this situation.
JF Sudmann October 26, 2012 at 12:39 AM
To HV Majority: In response to your comment, "If your 'insider' is one of the three who made such a ridiculous fuss over a simple sidewalk, you really need to check your sources", it was not. It was, in fact, more than one of the many employees of the City...
JF Sudmann October 26, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Mari, thank you for speaking up for what you believe in. Intimidation is the cowards' way out. Sorry you have been "hit from all sides". It's a shame people can't express their opinions without being ridiculed.
Frank Lurz October 26, 2012 at 06:20 AM
That's the story? Sorry, that's the "short story." As one who has lived the experience for the past 12 years I'll tell you what plenty of others can: "the story" is about a very profitable, private corporation that bullied its way into a neighborhood, angered half the valley, pitted neighbor against neighbor and used money, politics and the "kiddie card" to patronize, vilify and marginalize residents with the audacity to air legitimate concerns. That's what happened when MHS caused traffic and parking nightmares in 2000 – 2004. MHS did it again when, over neighbors' objections, it expanded its facility and student body in 2005, cramming kids into a campus 4 times too small by State Board of Education standards. Last June MHS arrogantly forced on its neighbors a sidewalk most didn't want, and that to this day almost no one uses. Now, residents at 251 Miller will be taking it in the shorts from the impacts of MHS's annex. The planning commission hearing, that was just a hollow, pro forma performance. The appeal to which those opposed are entitled — it has as much chance of being handled fairly as the trial of Joan of Arc; the annex is a done deal. As always, MHS will get what it wants. What the residents who will be impacted want . . . neither Marin Horizon, Inc. nor the City of Mill Valley gives a damn! The rancorous history of the MHS juggernaut, the angry neighbors the institution repeatedly leaves in its wake — that's where "the story" begins.
Mari October 26, 2012 at 02:55 PM
"Those opposed to the approval have the ability to appeal the decision to the City Council. That is the story." That IS the only story that should matter to the folks who live near 247 Miller. Is your peace and quiet worth a $250 gamble and a few hours of your time?

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