A day care owner seeking to expand her business is facing another legal hurdle from neighbors who say too many institutions are harming the residential character of the area.
Rubina Mohammed has been trying to expand a day care in her home at 731 W. Montgomery Ave. for more than a year. She wants to be able to add four more children, raising the maximum enrollment from eight children to 12, which would require a special exception from the Rockville Board of Appeals.
Last year, the board denied her application. Mohammed hired a lawyer and filed a request for reconsideration, promising that at least half of the children would be picked up and dropped off at an adjacent church to reduce traffic impacts. The board held another hearing and reversed its decision.
Now, the West End Citizens’ Association, which opposes the expansion, is seeking to reverse the board’s reversal. The group wants the board to hold another hearing and go back to its original decision to deny a special exception for the day care expansion.
In its request for reconsideration, the association argued that the reversal was not based on new evidence and does not explain why the board reversed its original decision.
In allowing the special exception, the board wrote that while the day care would be classified as institutional, because it could serve up to 12 children, the house would remain primarily residential. The additional four children would cause a minimal impact to the neighborhood.
WECA wrote that allowing the expansion is a “slippery slope” that would be a precedent for other in-home day cares seeking to expand.
In her own letter to the board, Mohammed wrote that the association is on a “witch hunt” to find issues with her request. She also said she has spent almost $12,000 on the process of trying to get the expansion and said she has gone above and beyond the zoning requirements for a 12-child day care.
Mohammed told The Gazette she feels the process has been unfair and turned into a big deal over a small application. She said she thinks WECA will get its request, but she does not have the money to hire a lawyer again or the political connections to compete with the citizens’ group.
“I fulfilled every single requirement, but they are against it,” she said.
If the decision goes against her, Mohammed said, she does not have the money to appeal it in court.
“Whatever happens, happens; I’m done,” she said.
Noreen Bryan, president of the association, said the city’s zoning ordinance creates a demarcation between in-home day care facilities, which may have up to eight children, and institutions that are larger and have a real impact on neighbors.
“There [are] always demarcations, and when you get to them, you need to abide by them,” she said.
Some from WECA have said they are concerned about too many institutions expanding in the West End and bringing traffic to a residential area. Bryan said a neighborhood can only remain a residential community if people live next door to neighbors, rather than having institutions on either side of them.
“That’s what happens to neighborhoods — they get eaten away at the edges,” she said.
The Board of Appeals is scheduled to consider the reconsideration request at its 9 a.m. meeting Saturday.