Lakeway passes revised home occupancy ordinance, to overhaul daycare rules

Bianca King addresses Lakeway City Council at its June 21 meeting. (Jennifer Schaefer/Community Impact Journal)

Lakeway City Council amended its home occupancy ordinance at its June 21 meeting, but will consider adding a paragraph to the ordinance dealing specifically with in-home child care at its July meeting.

This follows a months-long administrative and legal battle with local daycare owner Bianca King.

King operates a state-registered home daycare at his Lakeway home. She can care for up to four preschoolers in addition to two of her own, aged 2 and 4, according to the court document. She opened her business in January 2021 to support herself after being laid off during the pandemic.

Several of the rules for home businesses were clarified by the council during a discussion. One was to define the term nuisance to align with state law. According to state law, nuisance is defined as “a condition which substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or inconvenience to persons of ordinary sensibilities who attempt to use it and to take advantage of it”.

“It’s a nuisance to me that somebody moves in and does what they want,” said Beverly Banfield, a neighbor of King. “Please make sure… try to keep us in mind that we have to put up with the traffic. And if it’s that trade, what if it’s something someone else doesn’t doesn’t want in his neighborhood?”

King also called for a further council review allowing an independent contractor to work in the home at the same time as the main homeworker. She also asked council to review the rule that would not allow outdoor storage or signage related to home occupancy, since landscaping related to her business is in her yard.

“It is difficult for me to reasonably comply with the order because it does not allow for any storage or display related to home occupancy,” King said. “I have my toys and my playground in the garden and I would have to take them out. I suggest you add that items that are harmless and suitable for a residential area be allowed.

King’s lawyer, Erica Smith of the Institute for Justice, said she thought the draft home occupation ordinance had improved a lot after last month’s meeting in which the council made revisions.

“(King’s) neighbors are overwhelmingly supportive of her business, others had no idea she was running a business from home because she has always been respectful of her neighbors and will continue to be so,” she said.

Just behind King’s house is the eighth hole of the Live Oak Golf Course at the Hills of Lakeway Country Club. After the city received a complaint about King’s business, she was contacted by the city in August and told she needed an additional license to continue her business, according to the court document.

King underwent a commission hearing in November in which she was denied her license for the first time. After appealing the decision to the Board of Adjustment, King was denied again in February, shortly after which she filed a lawsuit against the city to keep her business open.

The city and the law firm reached an agreement in early March, allowing King to operate his business during the trial, Lakeway communications director Jarrod Wise said.

King will have the opportunity to reapply for a home occupancy permit once the city passes the revised ordinance, according to the city.

King sued the city after being denied a permit needed to operate and ordered his daycare center to close in February. The permit was denied on the grounds that it violated two of the 19 home-based business rules listed in the city’s Home Occupancy Ordinance, which outlines the rules a business must follow in order to receive a business permit. operation.

The lawsuit with King prompted the city to review its existing ordinances. On April 6, members of the zoning and planning commission viewed a draft version of the updated ordinance, which corrected many of the major flaws in the original code and removed some rules entirely.

Of the 19 rules, nine have been removed; three were significantly modified; four have been clarified; and three were not changed.

Michael A. Bynum