A change in zoning laws Monday night could encourage more home-basedday care in town, now that providers don't have to pay more than $700 in fees to get permission to operate.

From being the town with the most prohibitive costs for home-based day care providers, Hampstead has become among the most lenient.

The town already has about 20 family home day care providers licensed by the state, said John A. Riley, town manager. Those providers will be grandfathered into the new ordinance approved by the Town Council Monday night, making state-licensed home day care a permitted use in residential zones.

If a provider wants to care for six or fewer children, she would not have to pay the town special fees, although she would need a state license.

To care for seven or eight children -- the most allowed by the state, she must pay a one-time water-area service charge of $250, plus about $165 in fees to appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Previously, anyone wanting the town'spermission to provide home day care was supposed to pay a $600 water-service fee along with the BZA costs.

But the fee was not paid because home day care providers

didn't realize it was required, saidLeslie Hinebaugh, Carroll County's child care coordinator. It becameknown to them only a year ago when the state began requiring new home-based day care providers applying for a town license to show proof of legal zoning, Hinebaugh said.

"Then people called Hampstead andfound out about that fee," Hinebaugh said.

"It has absolutely stopped any kind of (new) day care in Hampstead."

Because no day carecenters in Carroll County now take infants, parents of babies rely on home-based providers, called family day care.

"We have a shortage of care, particularly for infants and after-school care," Hinebaughtold the council just before it voted. "I would assume more people would come forward and be licensed if you make it (easier)."

Riley said he proposed lowering the water-service fee for providers who take in seven or eight children because the extra water used didn't justify such a high fee.

Hinebaugh said a provider already can spend $2,000 just getting the state license. The costs involve such things as criminal background checks, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, outdoor play equipment and child-proofing.

Yet the providers take inonly $65 to $90 a week per child, depending on the age, Hinebaugh said.

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