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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