City Council eases parking restrictions for home-based preschools

The Mercer Island City Council approved amendments to city zoning restrictions on the establishment of preschools in residential areas during its April 20 meeting. The amendments allow churches, as well as other private or public facilities, to house preschools without the previously required conditional-use permit and open up residential cul-de-sacs as possible preschool locations.

The City Council approved the amendments in its second reading after a parking statute was revised. The statute, which requires one available off-street parking space for every five children present at a residential preschool or day care, was deemed too restrictive at the Council’s April 6 meeting.

“The Council is concerned that this requirement poses a potential barrier to school properties, and this is not our intention. We want to look at a process to reduce this barrier,” said Mayor Jim Pearman. He then asked the city to rewrite this ordinance so that it allows for more flexibility.

The amended code will help a number of Island preschools — in particular, Pixie Hill and Little Acorn, which both may lose their lease at the North Mercer campus within the coming year — more easily relocate to single-family zones or lease space from Island churches and other private or public organizations.

Less restrictive arrangements are allowed for preschool facilities in churches.

“This will help us meet a growing Island demand for day care,” said Councilmember Dan Grausz. “This is a great step forward.”

There are currently 23 preschool and day care programs on Mercer Island, 10 of which operate from residential homes or churches.

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