The Lakeway City Council voted Monday night to clarify and simplify the city’s home-based business ordinance. Bianca King, who operates a family daycare center 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 he was denied a permit to continue operating a small daycare business out of his home. The Planning and Zoning Commission rejected King’s permit application in November, arguing that the daycare did not meet all of the city’s 19 criteria for a legal home-based business. At the time, King’s attorneys argued that Lakeway’s home-based business ordinance is unreasonably strict to the point of violating the state constitution.
King is a single mother with a background in education who provides childcare to several local families. She opened her daycare after she was laid off early in the pandemic and is now her main source of income. King registered her business as a child care service with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in January 2021 and is allowed to care for up to four children in addition to her own.
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With the new ordinance, the city lowered the requirements to 10 and added a section that specifically addresses home day care.
Several of the requirements remain the same, including that a home-based business cannot change the residential character of the lot and that the use of the building as a business will be secondary to its use as a home.
Other requirements no longer in the code include a ban on storing merchandise on-site and a rule that occupancy must occur entirely indoors.
Building and Development Services Manager Erin Carr said the purpose of the changes is to make the ordinance more specific and therefore enforceable; some of the original 19 requirements were difficult to apply in practice, she said.
The day care section of the ordinance states that family day care homes must apply for a permit with the Zoning and Planning Commission and the City Council, whereas previously the city code enforcement officer had the ability to approve those. permissions.
King will be able to apply for a home-based business permit under the new guidelines, Carr said. Businesses that already have current permits won’t have to reapply, he said.
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King said condensing the requirements into the ordinance was a positive step, but he thinks the permit application requirements for family day care homes are still too onerous. Appearing before the Zoning and Planning Commission and the City Council is complicated for small day care operators, many of whom don’t have attorneys or assistance with the process, he said.
King is also concerned about the leeway in the ordinance for the city to make home day care demands that could be difficult to meet and could conflict with state requirements. For example, the City Council will have the ability to approve or deny a daycare permit based on information about the business model, he said.
“We have no idea what kind of restrictions they would impose,” he said. “Even though we have very clear criteria on what we should follow from the state and what we should do, the city is allowed to put any type of restriction they want on a family child care business.”
During Monday’s council meeting, Councilor Sanjeev Kumar said the reason the ordinance allows discretion in approving permits is because every house, lot and business model is different and the council needs to be able to take that into account. .
King was also frustrated that the city did not include in the ordinance permission for her to have an aide on site to help with the children.
With the lawsuit ongoing, King’s business will continue to operate: He reached an agreement with the city in March to allow him to operate until the matter is resolved.
Carr said that once the ordinance is finalized, it will be signed by the mayor and posted on the city’s website.