Minutes of the Regular Meeting of the Gurnee Plan Commission - January 19, 2011

Village of Gurnee
Plan Commission Minutes

January 19, 2011

The meeting was called to order at 7:31 P.M.
Plan Commission Members Present:    Stephen Park, David Nordentoft, Richard McFarlane, Patrick Drennan
Plan Commission Members Absent:     Chairman James Sula, Gwenn Broughton, Sharon Salmons
Other Officials Present:                       Bryan Winter, Village Attorney; Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager;
Molly Booth, Associate Planner; Ryan Mentkowski, Associate Planner
Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, appointing Mr. Park as Pro-tem Chairman.
1a. Approval of Plan Commission Meeting Minutes for December 1, 2010.
Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, to approve the Plan Commission Meeting Minutes for
December 1, 2010.
Roll Call
Ayes:                Park, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Drennan
Nays:                None
Abstain:            None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0
1b. Approval of Plan Commission Meeting Minutes for December 15, 2010.
Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, to approve the Plan Commission Meeting Minutes for
December 15, 2010.
Roll Call
Ayes:                Park, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Drennan
Nays:                None
Abstain:            None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0
1c. Approval of the Joint Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for December 15, 2010. (PC Only)
Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, to approve the Joint Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for December 15, 2010.
Roll Call
Ayes:                Park, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Drennan
Nays:                None
Abstain:            None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated this is a Public Hearing, and asked for anyone from the petitioner or members of the general public who intend to either give testimony or ask questions to stand and be sworn in by the Village Attorney.
2.   Public Hearing: Special Use Permit for Stay 2 Play, Inc
Ms. Booth stated the petitioner, Scott Meno, is requesting a Special Use Permit for (2) two types of child care services one being in the form of a play café classified as a commercial gymnasium and the 2nd being a drop-in child care classified as a child day care center at 1475 Dilleys Road. She stated the proposed business, Stay 2 Play, Inc., will occupy approximately 3,690 square feet in Units 6-8 of the existing Pinewood Crossings multi-tenant building. She stated the play café concept consists of a supervised play area in approximately 1,885 square feet of the proposed tenant space which connects to a proposed 66-seat café. She stated the intent of this service allows children to play in a self-guided area monitored by Stay 2 Play employees while parents can remain on-site in the café. She stated the second service, drop-in child care, allows parents the ability to drop-off their children (for a maximum of 4 hours) in the play area and leave the facility. She stated in order to conduct drop-in service the petitioner must receive a license from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) which is expected sometime in the spring. She stated the maximum amount of clients proposed for the drop-in day care is 48 and noted there will be no exterior changes to the existing building aside from a 900 square foot outdoor play area in the corner side yard behind the petitioner’s units.
Mr. Scott Meno of 2448 Lawson Boulevard, Gurnee stated he is seeking a Special Use Permit for 1475 Dilleys Road where they are seeking to open a Play Café and Drop-in Child Care Center. He stated a Play Café is a commercial gymnasium where parents drop their children off into a secure play area while they are able to go to the café area to have coffee, internet access, etc. while their children are supervised by Staff. He stated this is similar to that of fitness centers where parents drop their children off at a play area while they go to work out. He stated there are several other businesses in Illinois that offer this service with the closest being in Crystal Lake and Wheeling. He stated they visited those sites which are similar to that he is proposing except in his proposal they would be taking responsibility for the children as they are playing. He stated the parents then are truly able to have time to themselves as adults while their children are having play dates.
Mr. Meno stated the 2nd part of their business would be the drop-in child care which is somewhat of a new concept in the day care world. He stated it is growing in areas of the United States with similar demographics and key characteristics to Gurnee which include large malls frequented by travelers and larger entertainment venues. He stated they believe this is a good fit for the Village of Gurnee based on their comparisons. He stated the drop-in child care allows up to 4 hours of care up to a maximum of 12 hours per week which allows parents to have time for errands, shopping, doctor’s appointments, dinner/lunch dates, etc., without having to have children in tow.
Mr. Meno stated they are working with DFCS for their Illinois State License which is required for anytime that a parent leaves a facility. He stated the process for the license begins with completing the DCFS application and then a wait time for license of approximately 6 months. He stated the reason they are combining the play café and drop-in child care service together is due to the 6 month lag time for licensing and that there is need for both of these services within Gurnee.
Mr. Meno stated they would open initially as a play café limiting their service to only the families that would be taking children to the play area and remaining on the premise. He stated they have had discussions with DCFS on how to police parents that may want to leave their children at the play area and they actually leave the facility. He stated they have a process in place from the DCFS on this can be handled. He stated as they go through the DCFS licensing process and upon obtaining their license they would add the 2nd service, that being the drop-in child care to their offering. He stated at that time certain security measures would be added for the children who would be there so they could identify which would be there for drop-in and which would be there for play café service.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for comments or questions from the Plan Commission members.
Mr. McFarlane asked how the food service portion of this business would work.
Mr. Meno responded they plan on preparing coffees and teas which would be the only food prepared on-site. He stated they are currently having discussions with caterers for pre-packaged food as well as working with the Lake County Health Department on what regulations and qualifications are required from vendors in order to drop off prepared foods both cold and dry into the on-site refrigerated case.
Mr. McFarlane stated then this would be similar to what might be seen in an airport with locating kiosk and choosing some food or beverage.
Mr. Meno responded yes, and it would also be similar to what Starbucks now offers with prepared sandwiches and snacks that are prepared off-site but available in their stores.
Mr. McFarlane asked for the number of children that would be in the initial stage of operations.
Mr. Meno responded they are predicting not more than 15 children at one time based on their initial numbers. He stated they will be staffing according to the DCFS “child to teacher” ratios as well as taking reservations in advance in attempt to stay on top of the DCFS guidance for ratios. He stated they have witnessed approximately 15 children at other establishments as they actually sat and counted how many children were there during different hours of the day, as well as calling other states to inquire on the number of children that facility has at any given time. He noted other establishments stated their peak times for drop-ins are Friday evenings for date nights and that they are almost always at capacity for those evenings. He stated their maximum capacity for this would be 40 children at the age of 2 years old and above.
Mr. Drennan asked how the monitoring would be done for 40 children, as well as ensuring that parents would not leave the premise.
Mr. Meno responded their kiosk would be located near the front of the building. He stated they would have a video surveillance system running at all times and noted one of the responsibilities of the front desk would be to monitor if parents were to leave. He stated on their graphical interface user software they will have a quick roster of all the children and their parents at the facility and within each file they would have pictures of children and parents. He stated if they did suspect that someone were missing or left before they were supposed to they could easily have access to the file to reference the pictures to visually verify who is to be present at any one given time.
Mr. Drennan asked what the teacher/guardian ratio for children is.
Mr. Meno responded the ratio is 20:1 for above 2 years of age and below would be 8:1 which is a DCFS mandated ratio.
Mr. Drennan asked if the one or two teacher/guardians have qualifications.
Mr. Meno responded yes, and that DCFS has very specific qualifications which state certain levels of child based education and training are required, as well as these qualifications being in their hiring standards.
Mr. Drennan asked for a description of the outside play pertaining to access as well as noise control.
Mr. Meno responded he has been working with Molly as far as expectations for the outside play area. He stated the height of the fence would be according to DCFS standards as well as the Gurnee standards. He stated realistically the outdoor play area is a DCFS requirement and noted even though it is required it is not necessary that it has to be used. He stated the intent of the outdoor play area is more for children who would be at a facility for extended periods of time and those children would have use of this as part of their daily routine if a child were to be there for 9 or 10 hours. He stated because they are limiting the children’s time spent to 4 hours the usage of this outdoor play area would be very limited. He stated he has outlined within the documentation some of the variances where this area would be used. He noted having children outside causes it to be tougher to get children “in and out” of an outdoor play area. He stated it would also take away some of the more unique indoor features of their facility.
Mr. Drennan asked if the maximum would be (6) six children allowed in the outdoor play area.
Mr. Meno responded (6) six children is the maximum that would be in the outdoor play area.
Mr. Nordentoft asked Mr. Meno if he has the opportunity to have full-time day care and if it would only be limited to the 4 hour increment.
Mr. Meno responded the license would allow full day care, but that is not what they want to do with their business model. He stated with a full-time day care there would be meals that would have to be served and nap time components. He stated the 4 hours they have set is designed from keeping them to have to do some of the more traditional day care requirements. He stated by limiting the allowed time for children to 4 hours it has allowed them to have this within a retail space. He stated they cannot expand to full-time day care unless they were able to offer meals and naps for the children which they cannot do. He stated since they cannot do these components they cannot offer full-time day care.
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated the focus of 4 hours or less and no more than 3 times per week is also part of this application and should be considered as a condition of a motion.
Mr. Nordentoft asked if Mr. Meno were to want to change his business model at a future time would he have to re-apply.
Pro-tem Chairman Park responded yes. He stated Mr. Meno would have to come back and have it analyzed and noted at that point not just the food service but the outdoor play area is much more important.
Mr. Nordentoft asked when the day care component is integrated into this would those children would be segregated from the other children or would they all be intermixed. He stated it appears there are (4) four inside play areas and asked if everyone is free to move about within the areas or is it structured from room to room with supervision in each room.
Mr. Meno responded it is a balance and they do want to allow for free and open play as they feel that is one of the most engaging things for children to have the ability to explore at their own leisure. He stated they will be segregating certain ages of children as they do not feel it is appropriate for a 10-12 year old to be playing next to a 2 year old in a dress-up area. He stated once the two populations are integrated this is an issue they potentially will run into during after school hours and on weekends. He stated during school hours they will not have children over the age of six as they will be in school and would not have this problem during the day. He stated during the day it would be open flow of play. He stated in the evenings and on the weekends they would be segregating certain groups by a hand stamping process or bracelet process which would allow the children to know which rooms they would be allowed in during certain times. He stated every room would be staffed and the staff would be guiding children into the age appropriate rooms. He stated older children would not necessarily be interested in dress-up areas but more interested in the utility gym which would have a small rock climbing wall. He stated naturally some of this will work out as children’s interests pull them into certain areas but children who may wonder into a non-appropriate age area would be guided back by staff into the correct areas.
Mr. Nordentoft asked if this would be classified as a gym with a café as an accessory use to the gym or as a café with the gym being an accessory use to the café. He asked if one of these would be the driver to the business with marketing the café component more by expecting people to come to the café to eat whether they are bringing children or not. He also asked if an environment would be created to try and attract or just having the café for the parents just to stay.
Mr. Meno responded the hope is that the café would have a good enough quality offering so people would want to come in. He stated however, the focus is the gym as it is unique and is what the people cannot get elsewhere. He stated people can go a McDonalds and have their children play. He stated their gym is really what will separate them from an offering such as McDonalds or Chuck E Cheese because children will be able to go into a unique play area and be supervised. He stated the café is something for the parents to do while their children are at play.
Mr. Nordentoft asked if memberships will be sold or completely just a walk-in situation.
Mr. Meno responded it would be a walk-in for the play café. He stated the drop-in service will require that parents go through the DCFS registration process. He stated there is a pre-registration process in order for a child to be dropped off and he will be making this as web-centric as possible so parents can bring their completed forms and not have to be turned away due to not having the appropriate form. He stated the DCFS is adamant that certain information must be provided if a child is being dropped off. He stated this is a registration process that must be done if children are to be dropped off.
Mr. Nordentoft stated it is not as drop-in as it sounds with an open gym. He stated the child care component is such that will have an application, more data and records for anyone who would be participating in the day care portion.
Mr. Meno replied that is correct.
Mr. Nordentoft stated (for Staff) that he understands that the restaurant use (Rhapsody) located further down in the building is no longer there. He asked Staff for clarification if that will still be available for a restaurant use even with this facility or will with a restaurant type use affect what can happen further down toward the end of the building.
Ms. Booth responded the professional traffic consultant, Bill Grieve, reviewed the project as well as completing two different shared parking analyses. She stated those analyses showed the former Rhapsody restaurant space being a 120 seat restaurant and being a general retail space and in both instances there was enough parking on-site to support another restaurant.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for any questions or comments from the Public.
Ms. Amanda Mika of 1553 Yew Court, Gurnee asked the following: is the DCFS registration a one-time paperwork that has to be completed by parents or if it would need to be completed each time; where is the location of this facility within the building; where is the location of the outdoor play area; what is the opening date of the café usage; would the café users have to pay a fee for their children to play in the gymnasium.
Mr. Christopher Thelen of 1428 Sherwood Court, Gurnee stated his concern is for children in the parking lot. He stated this lot can be very busy with the Golden Corral and the hotel and wondered what type of security measures would be taken to ensure children would be safe. He also asked what the similarities are between this business and the recently opened Pump It Up. He stated as there is probably enough business for both business to survive and thrive he wouldn’t want either business damaged to the point of either one having to close. He stated even if the outdoor play area is not intended to be in use he seems to remember a lot of electrical conduit located behind the building. He asked if the play area is located close to the electrical conduit what steps would be taken to ensure children would not injure themselves.
Pro-tem Chairman Park closed the floor to the Public.
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated regarding the competition between businesses that the Village and this Commission has no right or authority to withhold any potential competition. He stated the preverbal free market system allows people to put money into a business and make a go of it competing with an existing business. He stated this is what the market is about and the Village or the Commission has no right to challenge this under the zoning laws. He stated this is something the Village and the Commission cannot address regardless if it seems as a logical thing to ask because it is not within in the prevue of the zoning requirements.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked Ms. Booth to identify within the strip-center where the location is as well as the location of the outdoor play area.
Ms. Booth responded the proposed Stay 2 Play is Units 6 – 8 which is basically located in the middle of the building and noted for perspective the Rhapsody restaurant occupies Units 11 - 15. She noted the tenant next to Stay 2 Play would be adjacent to the existing hair salon. She stated the outdoor play area is located behind Units 7, 8 and 9 which is behind the building adjacent to Pinewood Road, on the north side of the building in the existing grass area.
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated this would be a fenced area per Gurnee’s and DCFS requirement.
Ms. Booth stated that is correct and noted it is a solid cedar wood 4 feet in height fence that is proposed.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked if Ms. Booth or Mr. Meno if they had knowledge of electrical conduit being in this area and within the play area itself.
Mr. Meno responded there is an electrical transformer box that is not within the play area and they are working with their architect to ensure they have enough area between their fence and the electrical transformer. He stated the landlord has granted them permission to move the play area to wherever it fits best per the recommendation of Staff or the architects. He stated they are taking the safety of this very seriously as to the location of the outdoor play area.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked how the outdoor play area would be accessed.
Mr. Meno responded it will be completely enclosed with a locked gate which requires a staff key for entrance into the area.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked if access would not be from the rear of the building but accessed by going around the building.
Mr. Meno responded they are planning for access to be from the rear of the building. He stated there is a sidewalk that runs behind the building and the fence for the outdoor play area would start at the sidewalk. He stated a few feet of the sidewalk to the entrance of the play area would be the short distance that the children would have to travel. He stated they would not have to take children around the building for access to the outdoor play area.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked if paperwork needs to be filled out just a single time with updating to that paperwork if there would be new information.
Mr. Meno responded that is correct. He stated DCFS requires a one-time registration where emergency and doctor information are filled out.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for all subsequent times it would then be a check-in / check-out.
Mr. Meno responded yes and the DCFS does require the records be updated periodically.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for a perspective opening date.
Mr. Meno responded if all goes well the opening date would be sometime in May 2011.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked if this opening date was for the café versus the DCFS provided day care.
Mr. Meno responded yes, it would be for the play café.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for clarification if Mr. Meno would be unsuccessful with the DCFS application that he would still be going ahead with the café.
Mr. Meno responded that is correct.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked if there is a fee for the children if the persons with the children are buying the coffee and food that is offered in the café.
Mr. Meno responded yes, and that there is a one-time fee to use the play area.
Pro-tem Chairman Park inquired about the parking lot safety. He stated if someone comes to go to the café the children are under that person’s guidance. He asked the Mr. Meno if there would be any safety factors provided specifically to his use for any children entering his facility or would it be just up to the parent or person(s) with the child.
Mr, Meno responded one of the things that appealed to them about this location is that the sidewalk has parking that goes right up against it. He stated all of the parking in front of the building is such that they would not have to travel across the parking lot. He stated persons can park at the front of the structure and just go into their facility. He also noted they have requested (2) two drop-off parking spots in front of their unit to be used specifically for drop-off only which is tied to the day care and will limit having to take children back and forth, to a certain degree. He stated they felt this would help with the parking issues as well as safety.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for any other comments from the petitioner.
Mr. Meno responded he appreciates the opportunity to apply for this and thanks the members of the community as well.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for any questions from the Plan Commission.
Mr. McFarlane asked for clarification on the play area. He asked if the play area at some point will connect directly to the space.
Mr. Meno responded their intention is not to connect it to the space because they want to be “good neighbors” to the other tenants to allow other tenants to have use of the sidewalk directly behind the building.
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated so the fence would be on the outer edge of the sidewalk.
Mr. Meno responded that is correct.
Mr. McFarlane asked if he could drive up to the back of the building and drop off a child.
Mr. Meno responded no. He stated there is no parking area behind the building with a slope to the area as well. He stated the check-in for children is at the front of the facility with the back door being locked and its use as an emergency exit.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked Mr. Meno if the fenced area would still be put in if he does not receive the DCFS license.
Mr. Meno responded because it is a DCFS requirement that was the intention of the fenced area. He stated they are not opposed to it if it is a recommendation of Commission noting they have budgeted for it. He stated if the Plan Commission states it is required for this Special Use they would in fact provide the fenced area.
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated his inclination would be if they do not have the day care it would not be something he would encourage for them to have when providing only 4 hour care of children. He stated if they do not get the DCFS license he suggests not to put it in and to only put it in if it is necessary for the DCFS license as the whole focus is for better control of children inside the space itself.
Mr. Nordentoft asked Mr. Meno if the outside play area is a component that makes their business more valuable and more attractive as well as keeping it staffed appropriately and managing it all. He stated if the outdoor play area is an asset to the operation he doesn’t really see the big deal if it is there without the daycare component. He asked Mr. Meno if he would prefer to have the outside play area even though there may not be the day care component.
Mr. Meno responded yes. He stated the outside play area must be in place before they apply for to the DCFS for licensing.
Pro-tem Chairman Park stated his only concern is that the area within commercial areas where it is a retro-fit into a commercial building as this center was not designed with this use in mind. He stated effectively you either use existing parking spaces by tearing out those spaces and putting in a grassy area or you use what were required landscaping for buffering and landscaping and now using it for a play area which is not accomplishing the original intended use for the center.
Mr. Nordentoft responded he understands this. He stated however that this would then have to be structured to where DCFS requires this outdoor play area to be in place before a license is granted and then require the petitioner to tear it out. He stated that would be ridiculous.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for any other questions from the Commission.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for a motion.
Mr. McFarlane moved to forward a favorable recommendation, seconded by Mr. Nordentoft, to approve a Special Use Permit for Stay 2 Play, Inc. to establish a commercial gymnasium and possible day care center with the following conditions: 1) That a license be secured from DCFS prior to any transitioning into a day care where children are dropped-off by their parents; and 2) That to limit the drop-in child care service to four (4) hour increments to a maximum of three times per week.
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked the Commission for any discussion on the motion
Roll Call
Ayes:                Park, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Drennan
Nays:                None
Abstain:            None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0
Pro-tem Chairman Park asked for motion to adjourn.
Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, to adjourn.
The Meeting was adjourned at 8:11 P.M.
Respectfully Submitted:
Joanne Havenhill
Plan Commission Secretary