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A La Plata day care center is at risk of losing its permission to operate in the town in a thorny town Board of Appeals case concerning its special exception.

Claire’s Day Care at 700 Charles St. began operating in 1977, receiving a special exception that year from the town to operate a day care in a residence.

A special exception permits property owners to operate a specific use in an area it is normally not permitted in. A Board of Appeals decides whether to grant an exception based on requirements in the zoning ordinance and subject to conditions the board can apply.

The day care’s owner, Claire Tayman Parker, said she leased her property to Patrice Dyson in 2010 after Parker’s husband became ill. Parker said when Dyson’s father became ill this year, she agreed to take back the day care center.

However, one of the conditions of her exception was that the exception expires when her property is leased to someone else or remains vacant for six months.

Parker said she had applied to the Board of Appeals to get her special exception reinstated when town staff informed her that the town erred in granting an exception to her in 1977.

According to the town staff report for the case, town staff recommended that the board not allow her to continue operating her business because in 1977, the town’s zoning code required owners of day care centers that receive special exceptions in the R-8 zone to reside at the property. Parker did not reside at the property in 1977, according to the town staff’s report.

Parker currently resides in Indian Head.

Today, the zoning code permits child care centers in residential zones that are on an established church or school property, according to the town’s staff report.

Parker’s attorney, Tom Mudd of Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, said that the day care center should be considered a nonconforming use, meaning that the use does not conform to zoning laws but is allowed to continue to operate.

Since the town continued to permit the day care center through several rezonings and when Parker requested expansions, the property should be considered a nonconforming use, Mudd said.

Parker requested an expansion in 1986 to allow 20 children in her day care, which the town Board of Appeals approved. Currently, the day care hosts 11 children.

Parker said she has not had problems with the town before and has only been concerned with the welfare of children in operating her business.

“If they made the rules to follow and the town said they did something wrong, why should I have to go through all this?” Parker said.

“What they’re doing is not fair to children in the center and to me,” Parker said.

The case began Aug. 23 when the board permitted Parker to take 60 days to gather additional arguments in the case. There was only one board member at the Oct. 25 meeting who knew the case details, so the board agreed to continue the meeting Nov. 8.

A decision could come Thursday from the town’s Board of Appeals whether to keep Claire’s Day Care open or close the day care’s doors.

Mudd said he was hopeful that Claire’s Day Care would be permitted to operate as a nonconforming use, though he acknowledged that the town would need to admit an error, which government does not usually do.

“She’s been a good citizen and provides a much needed service. Hopefully the town will act to permit the continuance of a small business,” Mudd said.

pwarner@somdnews.com