Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Debate flares over
child care in condos

By Helen Altonn


A bill that would allow child-care facilities to operate in condominiums, townhouses or apartments is advancing in the state Legislature, despite opposition from owners associations and others.

"We are concerned about providing accessible, affordable child care," said Rep. Dennis Arakaki, chairman of the House Human Services and Housing Committee.

"Families live in condos and townhouses. I see no reason why they should not have child care. If we don't pass it, we can expect to see a lot of condos prohibiting it," he added.

Arakaki's committee is writing restrictions into the bill to address concerns of apartment owners and sending it to the House Consumer Protection and Judiciary committees for their consideration.

The bill restricts operation of a child-care home to an owner-occupant in a condominium, apartment or townhouse, and limits liability for owners and associations.

Child-care facilities would be restricted to the first four floors of a building and be limited to not more than 3 percent of the total number of units.

Jane Sugimura, president of the Hawaii Council of Associations of Apartment Owners, said condominiums are self-governing and an owner who wants to operate a child-care business can ask for a change in the bylaws.

"If the state could override our condo documents that are binding on all owners in the project ... there would then be no limit as to what the state could unilaterally impose on condo owners, and the right of 'self-governance' granted to condos (by law) would be severely diluted," she said.

Condominium owner Gilbert Benson said, "Hastily saddling condo owners such as myself with high insurance bills that would go with an in-house child-care center without our consent is a blatantly unfair trampling on our property and personal rights."

The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, among the bill's supporters, expressed concern that costs resulting from some of the bill's requirements could deter development of child-care facilities.

State Farm Insurance asked for an amendment to relieve apartment owner associations of any liability arising from operating a family-care home.

The state Department of Human Services, while supporting the bill, questioned whether indemnification is possible.

"It is unclear how a small child-care provider could indemnify a large homeowners association," said Director Susan Chandler.

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