In early December I sent the letter below addressing my concerns about the Home Office Ordinance and its negative effect on family. I am sending my letter to the editor with the intention of raising awareness and encouraging the Council to address the issue. I have added some updates at the end of the letter.
Dear Mayor Giordano and Town Council:
My husband and I moved to North Plainfield in 2004 because it was home to a diverse community. In the ten years that we have lived here and raised our family we have found families that represent a wide-range of cultural and economic groups. A common struggle that all these families share is the search for appropriate, safe, cost-effective childcare. It is regarding this struggle that I write to express my deep concerns as to how the interpretation of the Home Office ordinance (22-136) presents a great obstacle for families.
Finding a safe, affordable, caring person to whom I can entrust my children is of the highest priority. To learn that North Plainfield has an ordinance, which works in direct opposition to my ability to find such a person in my own town, is beyond disheartening. Working families need access to affordable childcare. In-home childcare is a wonderful, convenient option for many families and to learn that my town opposes this basic right is wrong.
Supporting middle and lower income families means providing as many avenues to economic sustainability as possible. Banning in-home businesses, particularly in-home childcare, removes a viable pathway to economic independence for many people. Lift the ban and have childcare providers register with the town. Allow people to be resourceful, independent economic engines, taking initiative to provide for their own families while providing an invaluable service to other families.
Private day care establishments and nursery schools provide an important service and there are several in town. These establishments do not fully meet the needs of working families. Early morning drop-off, holidays, late hours, snow days, changing schedules, half-days and innumerable other reasons make in-home day care an essential option for families. This ban would mean that if I need more flexible childcare I must go to another town. That is not how successful communities are built. Successful communities are built by allowing families and neighbors to support one another. This knits communities together.
While gas prices are decreasing, the cost-of-living is not. Help families thrive rather than just survive by acknowledging, through council action, that families need accessible childcare and residents deserve the right to provide this service in their own homes. Taxpayers should be able to financially support themselves and provide a needed service to their neighbors. Change the code to support families. Please.
Since the time that I sent the letter above I have also learned about the state code NJ Code 40:55D-66.5a and 40:55D-66.5b. Here is a segment of 40L55D-66.5b:
Family day care homes permitted use in residential districts; definitions
2. a. Family day care homes shall be a permitted use in all residential districts of a municipality. The requirements for family day care homes shall be the same as for single family dwelling units located within such residential districts. Any deed restriction that would prohibit the use of a single family dwelling unit as a family day care home shall not be enforceable unless that restriction is necessary for the preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of the other residents in the neighborhood. The burden of proof shall be on the party seeking to enforce the deed restriction to demonstrate, on a case-by-case basis, that the restriction is necessary for the preservation of the health, safety and welfare of the residents in the neighborhood who were meant to benefit from the restriction.
It appears that enforcement of the North Plainfield code 22-136 against a family day care would be a violation of the state code. The Home Based Business ordinance needs serious revision. While no one who bought a home in a residential area wants their street turned into Main St. there are restrictions in the current ordinance that do not make sense. I plan on voicing my concerns regarding the Home Office code at the next Council meeting. I had hoped that the number of letters received by our officials regarding the issue would be enough to put the issue on a Council agenda but that has not yet been the case. While my primary concern is the negative aspect of the code on my family’s ability to provide adequate care for my children, I think the Home Office code is over-reaching.
I look forward to the Council working to create a code that supports the economic vitality of our community rather than stultifying it.