Permit problems derail daycare expansion plans

A Blueridge daycare operator is considering legal action against the District of North Vancouver after her bid to look after more children was approved by council but denied at the permit stage – a reversal she says cost her more than $11,000.

Anna Amiri, who has operated the Itsy Bitsy Daycare on Berkeley Avenue for the past three years, recently considered expanding from seven to 20 children. In February, Amiri got in touch with the district’s planning department but was told it was “premature to engage any design professionals as it hasn’t received approval by council,” according to an email chain supplied by Amiri.

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On April 1, District of North Vancouver council unanimously approved Amiri’s new business licence, which also involved switching from taking care of pre-kindergarteners during school hours to looking after children between five and 12 years old before and after school.

Following council’s verdict Amiri hired an architect to complete a survey of her property and plan a 900-square-foot expansion. Amiri said she paid the architect $11,000.

As news of her seemingly successful proposal spread on Facebook, Amiri started contacting parents to give them enough time to find other child-care arrangements before September.

But when she brought her application back to district planning staff, she was told she could add a maximum of 500 square feet – effectively sinking her proposal.

“If I knew that I could not add that much space then I wouldn’t have gone ahead with it. I wouldn’t have even done the public meeting,” Amiri said.

Instead of caring for 20 children, Amiri said Itsy Bitsy is down to two, as most of the kids have found other daycares. She’s also had to inform parents who were planning to enroll their children at Itsy Bitsy that she won’t be expanding as planned.

The municipality is continuing to work with Amiri to come up with a compliant proposal, according to District of North Vancouver communications officer Courtenay Rannard.

“School-age care in Blueridge is highly needed,” Amiri said. “I thought, maybe because of that, I have some advantage.”

Amiri said she wishes the district had informed her at the beginning of the process that she couldn’t add that much square footage.

“I wouldn’t have ruined my business. I wouldn’t have asked the kids to leave,” she said. “Why would I?”

Amiri estimates she’s lost $14,000 in income.

She also said she doesn’t want to care for such young children anymore.

“Saying goodbye to them is already hard enough,” she said. “I’m not going to go through that again.”


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