Montessori school given permit to operate day-care

The owner of a South Kitsap Montessori school will be allowed to offer full-day classes and day-care after the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners overturned the latest denial of a conditional-use permit.

“I am so glad, so grateful,” said owner Annette Weaver Monday night, shortly after the commissioners voted unanimously to overturn Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter’s latest decision, which would not have allowed the Montessori Farmhouse School to offer day care both before and after classes.

Weaver now runs a half-day program at her six-acre site on Bethel-Burley Road, and filed nearly a year ago for a conditional-use permit that would allow her to operate a full-day program.

In attempts to qualify for the permit, Weaver says she and her husband “upgraded the (property’s) septic and the well systems, improved the driveway, provided parking spaces for parents picking up their children, and planted trees and the vegetable garden.”

Kitsap County staff recommended approval of the permit, but some of Weaver’s neighbors were opposed to the project, telling Hunter they worried the children would make a lot of noise, do damage to the surrounding wetland habitat and that it would be dangerous having so many cars pulling in and out of the school’s driveway.

Hunter’s first ruling in February denied the permit, listing the concerns about noise, environmental degradation and traffic safety as reasons. Weaver appealed that decision to the commissioners, who ultimately decided to remand the decision back to the hearing examiner.

Hunter then approved a permit for the school, but Weaver said it would only allow her to operate from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., prohibiting her from offering daycare services to working parents.

She wants to offer “before-school” activities from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and “after-school” activities from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., which would allow parents who commute to Seattle to drop off their children earlier and pick them up later.

“I find it necessary (for the school) that a day-care facility be allowed to operate,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, reading from her notes Monday night. “And as for the traffic safety concerns, it would be prudent to install a warning sign, which the owners are willing to do, though they are not required to do.”

Garrido then moved to affirm Weaver’s appeal and modify the conditional-use permit to allow the school to operate weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and allow day-care to be offered from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Garrido also suggested adding that there was adequate sight distance — “425 feet to the north, and 495 feet to the south” — at the school’s driveway.

All three commissioners then voted to approve the modified permit.

Weaver, who said she has been draining her savings to keep the school open with only half-day classes, was relieved and happy as she met with supporters following the ruling Oct. 13.

When asked when she might be able to open her school as a full-day program, Weaver said she was “done guessing,” but she hoped to have it up and running by spring.

Before applying for a license from the state, Weaver said she and her husband will be adding a ramp to allow handicapped access and making other upgrades to the building.

Weaver said she chose the location for the school because “it is a happy, peaceful place for learning ... with a stream through the back of the property, a large enclosed grassy yard for the children to play in and a vegetable garden just outside the classroom.”

Since she envisioned the school as “an environmentally-based Montessori educational program” that teaches children to be independent and have respect for themselves, other people and nature, she said having the children so close to woods and wildlife is ideal.

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