Home day-care providers may soon be able to accept additional children, judging from the turnout at a zoning board hearing last week and the response of board members.

The board heard a petition from theDepartment of Planning and Zoning Wednesday that would change the maximum number of children allowed in home day-care from six to eight and increase the minimum number of children required in a day-care center from seven to nine.

Licensing requirements for home day-care are different from thosefor day-care centers.

The Department of Planning and Zoning wantsthe change in order to make county law conform to state law, which was amended July 1, 1989 to allow home providers to tend more childrenwithout having to get a special exception.

The increase would notalter any of the other home day-care requirements, such as having adequate space, adequate equipment, and complying with the county fire code, the board was told.

When Zoning Board chairman Shane Pendergrass asked how many people in the crowded hearing room had come in support of the petition, everyone stood up.

Rather than have everyone speak, supporters chose a spokesman who told the board that the change would help reduce the number of "latch-key children" in the county, and would better serve parents by providing "drop-in children" opportunities and "mother's night out" programs.

Pendergrass and board member Paul Farragut, who are parents of small children, praised the day-care providers for their work in Howard County.

"It would wear me out," Pendergrass said. She told supporters to expect a ruling on the petition soon.

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