Commission Backs Marin Horizon’s Toddler Program on Miller Ave.

Neighbors opposed the plan to open a day care facility, calling the unanimous decision “off the wall” and saying, “We do not need 18 children yelling and screaming.”

Are the sounds of 18 2- and 3-year-old children adorable or a nuisance?

That’s one of the issues that came up this week as the Mill Valley Planning Commission unanimously approved Marin Horizon School’s plan to move its toddler day care program from its Homestead Valley campus to a two-story office building at 247 Miller Avenue.

“I love children,” said John Goggin, a resident of the multi-unit residential building adjacent to 247 Miller, a late 1890s-era, Victorian-era building. “But taking a residential community like ours and subjecting it to 18 children coming and going twice a day with all of their cars and them playing just outside my window is not acceptable. It’s just not a good place to put a preschool.”

The Montessori-based toddler care program will include 18 students and three teachers Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., then drop down to 12 students and two teachers from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Kids will be on the first floor, and staff would use the second floor as office space. An outdoor play area will be be built in the back.

The commission first heard Marin Horizon’s plan at its Sept. 24 meeting, turning the hearing into a study session because of concerns about insufficient public notice. In the session, commissioners expressed concerns about the project’s parking plan and a plan to remove nine large trees because they’re interfering with power lines. School officials amended their plans to address those concerns.

Joan Frasson-Sudmann, owner of the adjacent 251 Miller residential building, said most of her residents opposed the project.

“It seems like it’s going to be a huge problem for us,” she said. “The traffic on Miller is really going to be horrendous, and there will be fumes from the cars running while the pickups and drop-offs are occurring.”

When other neighbors expressed concerns about parking, school officials noted that a traffic monitor would be on site each weekday to make sure parents didn’t use an adjacent parking lot and to prevent traffic backups. The commission added some conditions of approval for additiona landscaping to further lessen the facility’s impact on its neighbors.

Hannelore Barnes, a Homestead Valley resident and Marin Horizon parent, said school officials would go out of their way to make sure the concerns of neighbors were addressed.

“But I really have to question what kind of world we’re living in when we’re talking about the sound of children playing as a nuisance,” she said.

Commissioner Barbara Chambers agreed.

“I can’t believe the voices of 2- and 3-year-old would tower over the traffic on Miller,” she said. “And I’m a little bit surprised at the objections to the noise of children. At that age they are so adorable. This is the perfect place for a daycare school.”

Frasson-Sudmann was unconvinced, calling the commission's decision "off the wall."

"We do not need 18 children yelling and screaming," she said. "You don’t know what you’re talking about."

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Jack October 24, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Welcome children!
Mari October 24, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Fascinating to watch the video. http://cityofmillvalley.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=372
Scott October 24, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Great kids, great school, great neighbor. Much ado about nothing.
Silvers October 24, 2012 at 05:28 PM
As a parent with two children at Marin Horizon both who were "toddlers" I can tell you that the school and the parents will be respectful. I am happy to read Barbara Chambers comments and saddened by the opposition.
Mari October 24, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Jim - just to clarify, in case anyone actually bothers to watch the video : Someone in the video stated the building was zoned "commercial" - According to Mike Moore, Mill Valley Planning & Building Director, "247 Miller is zoned Multi-Family Residential (RM-3.5). Day care centers for children are a conditional use in that zone."
Mari October 24, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I'm curious - why not place the playground on the street side? If the sounds of the adorable children will drown out the traffic, that sounds like a win/win. The funeral home turned pre-school across the street has a playground on the street side, with a lovely (looks to be) willow fence. Just a suggestion, of course.
Mari October 24, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Check out this awesome award winning book (promise, I'm not getting a commission on it, just sharing great information - for the kids! ) : http://www.asphalt2ecosystems.org/home
Lippy October 24, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Mill Valley City get's its taste of the mighty Marin Horizon Machine! Enjoy.
JF Sudmann October 24, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Yes, we are experiencing the Marin Horizon Machine, as we were warned of by so many Homestead Valley residents, and many of these letters are on file with the City of Mill Valley. Mari had a great suggestion: why not put the playground closer to the street, rather than about 500 feet from the street and two feet from bedroom windows? Also, MV Patch needs to pay closer attention to their "quotes". My response of "Off the wall" was in response to Barbara Chambers remarks about the sweet voices of 2 - 3 year olds (ever seen a 2 - 3 year old melt-down? Come on, they're kids, and their "job" is to be a "kid"!), to the noise of Miller Ave. (YES, if you're standing on the street and not 500 feet away), and to the MV Planning Commission's ruling of "no rebuttal statements" when statements that the public, the residents and proffessionals find untrue.
Frank Lurz October 25, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Who would deny us the right to the quiet enjoyment of our own homes? Narcissistic acolytes of Marin Horizon School. Inc., that's who. Shamelessly playing the well-worn "kiddie card," Hannalore Barnes holds in contempt Miller Ave. residents' concerns about noise, questioning what kind of world "we’re" living in when the sound of children playing becomes a nuisance. The implication that there is something wrong with those who seek peace and quiet within the walls of their own homes demonstrates what kind of a world Ms. Barnes lives in. We don't deny her the right to live in her own world, but we strongly object to the notion that simply because she has a child, she has a right to elbow her way into ours.
Mari October 25, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Are you going to appeal?
JF Sudmann October 25, 2012 at 02:22 AM
We were informed by an "insider" that this MHS toddler day care center on Miller Ave. was a "done deal", and had been for many months, way before made public. We knew ahead of time what we were up against, but we did want to get our immediate community's feelings on record. Thanks to all of the Homestead Valley folks who warned us, and tried to support us.
Geoff Flint October 25, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Come on people - preschool is done by 6pm and the noise of 2 and 3 years old pales in comparison to the traffic on Miller. And BTW, preschool parents don't sit with their cars in idle; they go inside to meet their child. I don't think that the residents have anything to worry about here. :-)
Frank Lurz October 25, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Come on Mr. Flint — no one argues traffic noise on Miller isn't distressing, but those objecting to the MHS, Inc. annex don't live on Miller. They're set back far enough that noise isn't the nuisance you imply. Moreover, there's a big difference between low-frequency noise coming from as far off as Miller and piercing, high-pitched screams and shouts coming from just a few yards away. Yes, preschool is done by 6 P.M. So, what are you suggesting — that's it's OK to invade next door neighbors' peace and quiet 9 hours a day, 5 days a week provided the nuisance ends 4 hours before their bed time? You talk as though you have all the answers through first-hand experience. You don't. Given that you don't even live near MHS or in a unit at 251 Miller, you might give the benefit of the doubt to those of us who do, particularly those of us who have had to contend for more than a decade with MHS over these issues! You might pass that along to faculty running the school's much-touted conflict resolution program. You might find their response enlightening — if they give one.
Jim Welte October 25, 2012 at 07:57 PM
As I have had to do before regarding Homestead Valley issues, I am asking that people on this thread refrain from calling out each other personally, making assumptions about people who wouldn't want you speaking on their behalf, and generally insinuating that those who do not share your opinions are evil. It's the Internet equivalent of shouting someone down, and that's not what we're trying to promote here on Mill Valley Patch. Thanks in advance for being polite to one another.
HV Majority October 25, 2012 at 08:18 PM
And there we go again. More conspiracy theories from the NIMBY crowd. They've never been credible and never will. Just because many more people saw an issue differently than you do does not mean the fix is in. Nor does it mean they're racist. If your "insider" is one of the three who made such a ridiculous fuss over a simple sidewalk, you really need to check your sources. As with any institution, there are always the holdbacks, the lunatic fringe, for whom no amount of amelioration would suffice and who end up constantly complaining about whatever it is they do. What makes this case even more humorous, is it's no where near their backyards and yet they're still complaining about it. And, since it improves the so-called problems they complain about that are actually in their neighborhood, it just shows how irrational they are. Welcome to the club, Joan. p.s. apologies to all the lunatics who may be insulted by these words.
Mari October 25, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Thanks, Jim. Having experienced the vitriol from the very few residents of Homestead Valley who actually wanted that concrete slab more than they cared about how it would affect their neighbors homes, or the environment - I am not surprised by this latest tirade. "HV Majority" - you are not. Maybe if the school would have worked with the residents of Evergreen on a community built path, we could have preserved some parking near the intersection - and they wouldn't feel so rushed to move the toddlers?? I don't know - I never claimed to have all the answers, but I keep offering ideas because I care about people and I care about the environment. Why call people NIMBYs - when all they are trying to do is preserve their sense of peace and tranquility? To be honest, as for the 247 Miller issue - I was saddened to see that anyone, especially from Homestead Valley - would advocate on behalf of this project at a public meeting - given that they will not be directly affected by this change. Hanne - while I can appreciate your loyalty to your school, I do not understand - why would you or anyone else would feel the need to force your will upon someone else??
Jim Welte October 25, 2012 at 09:40 PM
"Force your will upon someone else." Let's be clear here. A school applied for a conditional use permit to move its toddler program to a building on Miller. That permit was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission. Those opposed to the approval have the ability to appeal the decision to the City Council. That is the story.
Mari October 25, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Fair enough - thanks. Must be a carry over from the sidewalk issue. Just my opinion.
Mari October 25, 2012 at 11:39 PM
and to clarify - as far as my opinion goes - Hanne, I don't think you are "evil." I watched the video of the planning commission and it seemed to me that the neighbors who spoke up against the project were being judged. I just don't understand why anyone would judge the people who want to protect the serenity of their homes as evil or being "child haters." That is what happened to the folks on Evergreen - and this looks to be happening again in this situation. Joan - if you and your neighbors decide to appeal, maybe you should just try to convince the school to move the playground to the front. I guess it depends upon how invested they are in the current design. In the sidewalk situation, there was a lot of incorrect information floating around - there still is. I have friends who may be able to help the school build a natural playground. I can refer you and or the school - anyone is welcome to contact me through my website : http://www.marimackmusic.com Please excuse me because I have a full plate and I'm quite frankly, tired of getting hit from all sides! Best of luck to everyone in this situation.
JF Sudmann October 26, 2012 at 12:39 AM
To HV Majority: In response to your comment, "If your 'insider' is one of the three who made such a ridiculous fuss over a simple sidewalk, you really need to check your sources", it was not. It was, in fact, more than one of the many employees of the City...
JF Sudmann October 26, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Mari, thank you for speaking up for what you believe in. Intimidation is the cowards' way out. Sorry you have been "hit from all sides". It's a shame people can't express their opinions without being ridiculed.
Frank Lurz October 26, 2012 at 06:20 AM
That's the story? Sorry, that's the "short story." As one who has lived the experience for the past 12 years I'll tell you what plenty of others can: "the story" is about a very profitable, private corporation that bullied its way into a neighborhood, angered half the valley, pitted neighbor against neighbor and used money, politics and the "kiddie card" to patronize, vilify and marginalize residents with the audacity to air legitimate concerns. That's what happened when MHS caused traffic and parking nightmares in 2000 – 2004. MHS did it again when, over neighbors' objections, it expanded its facility and student body in 2005, cramming kids into a campus 4 times too small by State Board of Education standards. Last June MHS arrogantly forced on its neighbors a sidewalk most didn't want, and that to this day almost no one uses. Now, residents at 251 Miller will be taking it in the shorts from the impacts of MHS's annex. The planning commission hearing, that was just a hollow, pro forma performance. The appeal to which those opposed are entitled — it has as much chance of being handled fairly as the trial of Joan of Arc; the annex is a done deal. As always, MHS will get what it wants. What the residents who will be impacted want . . . neither Marin Horizon, Inc. nor the City of Mill Valley gives a damn! The rancorous history of the MHS juggernaut, the angry neighbors the institution repeatedly leaves in its wake — that's where "the story" begins.
Mari October 26, 2012 at 02:55 PM
"Those opposed to the approval have the ability to appeal the decision to the City Council. That is the story." That IS the only story that should matter to the folks who live near 247 Miller. Is your peace and quiet worth a $250 gamble and a few hours of your time?


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