KinderCare Center Approved at Parrot Mill Inn
Child care center agrees to preserve Parrot Mill Inn, promises parking lot will be effective.
The application for the child care center, which would hire about 18 employees, was passed with a number of conditional resolutions, including the preservation of the Parrot Mill Inn and the restriction of use of that building by other businesses.
Before the board made its decision, Glenn Pantel, the applicant’s attorney, said the benefit of having KinderCare as an occupant of the site is that all of its locations are corporately owned—not franchised—allowing for an increased level of control.
“[KinderCare is] attracted to the site because of the reputation of Chatham as the kind of community that would appreciate the quality they like to believe they offer,” Pantel said.
Parrot Mill Inn Preservation
One of the main conditions under which the plan was approved was that the Parrot Mill Inn building be preserved, a request from the borough’s Historic Preservation Commission and echoed by various board members.
Although Pantel said the building “doesn’t have economic value to us,” he said KinderCare agreed to maintain and preserve it.
Matthew Taylor, the project’s director of construction and design, said the Parrot Mill Inn building could be used as KinderCare office space but that the “reality is we’re not going to use it.”
Additionally, Taylor said he was OK with board member Susan Favate’s request for a conditional resolution that the building not be sub-leased to a third party.
Taylor did say, though, that the company would be willing to consider Mayor Bruce Harris’ suggestion of lending the space to community organizations for meetings during non-operational hours.
Parking Lot Variance
One of the main variances KinderCare has requested is to allow for a 22-space parking lot, instead of the 31-space lot that is required under the planning board’s standard of one space per employee plus one space for every 10 students.
Michael Tobia, the planning consultant KinderCare hired for this project, explained that an alternate plan would have allowed for up to 33 spots had the organization not agreed to preserve the Parrot Mill Inn.
To prove 22 spaces would suffice, Tobia led a parking study analyzing three KinderCare facilities – in Whippany, Livingston and Clark – with close proximity and comparable parking situations.
Counting at 15-minute intervals during the three-hour peak drop-off time and three-hour peak afternoon pickup time, Tobia found that no more than 22 spaces were being used 68 of 72 times. This was the case despite each location having 33 to 39 total spaces, which the planning consultant dubbed “a waste of pavement.”
“The vast majority, 90 to 95 percent, of the time you’re on this site, you will see 22 stalls working perfectly,” Tobia said. “You will only see isolated incidents, I believe, where one or two or three moms waiting for drop-off or pickup will have to wait for a space.”
The study also took 75 readings measuring how long it took parents to park, take their children in, get back to their cars and pull out. Tobia said the average cycle took 7.8 minutes with some trips being completed in 45 seconds.
He then urged the board to keep in mind that the land use of a child care facility is like no others when it comes to parked cars.
“With supermarkets, you’re there for an hour and a half,” Tobia said. “At Home Depot, you’re there for an hour. It’s the only reason we can be comfortable that being a couple cars short of peaks we’ve seen elsewhere will work.”
Harold Maltz, the board’s traffic engineer, said he has done similar studies at child care centers and found that some days are busier than others. However, Tobia said that was not the case in the study he executed.
Board member H.H. Montague said he was curious as to what KinderCare planned to do if the parking situation ended up not working.
Taylor said that if that were the case, KinderCare would be willing to look into ways to alleviate the problem.
During the public comment session, resident Walter Nugent suggested that, if problems arise, parents can consider parking on Parrot Mill Road. Parking is allowed on the westerly side of the street for three hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
KinderCare also conducted a traffic impact analysis to identify how much of an effect the facility would have on the traffic on Parrot Mill Road and that section of Main Street, especially during the peak hours of 8 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.
Gary Dean, the project’s traffic engineer, estimated that 72 vehicles would enter and 63 would leave – a smaller number due to staff parking and staying – during the morning peak hour. Likewise, 64 would arrive and 73 would exit during the afternoon peak hour.
Dean said he believes the actual number would be lower because his analysis used what he said was the more conservative factor of 124 maximum students. In reality, he said, less students would be enrolled, which would diminish the flow of cars in and out.
Dean calculated that traffic passing the site might experience a delay of two seconds.
To further alleviate traffic flow problems, KinderCare has chosen to restrict left turns out of the parking lot on Main Street, meaning all parents traveling that way will have to pull into Parrot Mill Road and wait at the light.
“That delay increase is virtually imperceptible to any motorist along Parrot Mill Road,” Dean said.
Later in the meeting, Taylor agreed to borough engineer Vincent DeNave’s suggestion that a police officer be placed at the center for the first few weeks during peak hours to help direct the flow of traffic in and out of the parking lot.