The Lakeway City Council voted Monday night to clarify and improve the city’s home business ordinance. Bianca King, who operates a home day care in the city, said the changes aren’t enough for her to drop her lawsuit because the ordinance is unfairly restrictive.
King sued the city in March after she was denied a permit to continue operating a small daycare business out of her home. The Zoning and Planning Commission denied King’s permit application in November, arguing that the day care didn’t fit all 19 of the city’s criteria for a legal home business. At the time, King’s attorneys argued that Lakeway’s home business order is unduly strict to the point of violating the state constitution.
King is a single mother with a background in education who provides childcare for several local families. She opened her own daycare after being laid off earlier during the pandemic, and it is now her main source of income. King registered her business as a babysitting service with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in January 2021 and is allowed to watch up to four children in addition to her own.
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With the new ordinance, the city streamlined the requirements down to 10 and added a section that specifically addresses home day care.
A number of requirements remain the same, including that a home business cannot change the residential character of the lot and that the building’s use as a business will be secondary to its use as a home.
Other requirements no longer in the code include a ban on storing goods on site and the rule that the occupation must take place entirely indoors.
Building and development services manager Erin Carr said the intent of the changes is to make the ordinance more specific and therefore enforceable — some of the original 19 requirements were difficult to implement in practice, she said.
The preschool section of the ordinance stipulates that home daycares must apply for permits to the Zoning and Planning Commission and City Council, whereas previously the city’s code enforcement officer had the ability to approve those permits.
King will be able to apply for a home business permit under the new guidelines, Carr said. Businesses that already have permits will not have to reapply, she said.
More:Lakeway City Council discusses home business ordinance after daycare lawsuit
King said the narrowing of the requirements in the ordinance was a positive step, but she thinks the permit application requirements for home day care are still too burdensome. Going before the Zoning and Planning Commission and City Council is complicated for small day care operators, many of whom don’t have lawyers or assistance with the process, she said.
King is also concerned about the leeway in the ordinance for the city to make requirements for home day care, which can be difficult to meet — and potentially conflict with state requirements. For example, the City Council will have the ability to approve or deny a permit for a daycare based on information about the business model, she said.
“We have no idea what kind of restrictions they would put in place,” she said. “Even though we have very clear criteria of what we have to follow from the state and what we have to do, the city is allowing itself to be able to put any kind of restrictions that it would like on a home child care business. “
During Monday’s council meeting, council member Sanjeev Kumar said the reason the ordinance allows leeway in approving permits is because every home, land and business model is different and the council should be able to take that into account.
King was also disappointed that the city did not include in the ordinance permission for her to have an on-site aide to help with the children.
With the lawsuit pending, King’s business will continue to operate — she reached an agreement with the city in March to allow her to operate until the case is resolved.
Carr said once the wording of the ordinance is finalized, it will be signed by the mayor and posted on the city’s website.