The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a request to loosen county rules for in-home day care operators so providers can care for up to 10 children instead of the current limit of seven.

Debate over home day care centers started when the county realized its law was in conflict with the looser state law and that it was causing confusion for zoning officials trying to enforce the rules.

County officials instructed caregivers to either cut the number of children in their care to seven or apply for a special county permit that would allow them to watch 12 children, the most the state law allows. That permitting process would cost caregivers as much to $1,100 and require approval from local zoning officials.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, tried to raise the limit to 10 children to help caregivers avoid the need for an expensive permit and to prevent the county from being inundated by permit requests. The board shot down the proposal 8-2.

"I don't know that [the board] understands what this is going to mean for the county to go through this process," Herrity said. "I just don't think the county is ready for the large number of people who'll apply for a permit."

As many as 400 in-home day care operators already care for 12 children in Fairfax County, Herrity said, noting the permit process could take up to a year to complete.

But that likely won't deter Kathy Zatt, a county day care operator for four years. Although disappointed with the board's decision, Zatt plans to apply for the special permit.

"It's just really difficult," Zatt said. "There are so many hoops to jump through."

Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, who voted against Herrity's proposed compromise, said the special permit will help ensure that the day care centers are safe and don't cause traffic problems in residential neighborhoods.

"My concern is, considering that these businesses are being run in homes, the impact they may have on close-by neighbors," Bulova said. "The maximum number of children also seems to have provided for a safe program during the period of time that it's been in existence."

County planners are expected to approve the special permit fee in March.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the Fairfax board approved changes to the county's handbook so that it will comply with a state law that allows employees to store guns and ammo in their vehicles on county property. Despite employee requests, the board will not allow them to store crossbows or knives in their vehicles.