A new subsection for the home occupation ordinance specific to at-home child care was approved during the Lakeway City Council special session on Aug.1.

The council was divided in its decision, with the majority voting for it while Council Member Kelly Brynteson and Council Member Keith Trecker opposed.

The subsection was amended to state that a listed or registered day care, the only categories of day care allowed in residential areas by the city, may be approved with restrictions or limitations. Considerations for approval include, but are not limited to, the operator’s proposed business model, the size of the home, the size of the lot, the size of the space available in the yard for outside activities of the children under care, distance to neighboring homes and parking availability.

The discussion around the ordinance began in February 2022 when local daycare owner Bianca King sued the city after the board of adjustment denied her appeal for a permit to operate her state-registered at-home daycare out of her Lakeway house.

According to court documents, the city received a complaint about King’s business from local golfers, who said hearing and seeing children play in King’s private backyard interferes with their golf game. After receiving the complaint, the city notified King in August 2021 that she needed to file an additional permit.

During the meeting, King thanked the council for working on revisions to the ordinance and said they were “making great headway.” However, she has concerns about the parameters of the ordinance.

“We're also concerned this week's proposal gives the city too much discretion to deny permits based on subjective factors or because certain neighbors are more vocal than others,” she said.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, anyone applying for a special permit to run a functioning day care in their home must comply with all other home ordinance codes, limit the number of children unrelated to the caregiver to three and restrict any parking for the day care to the front of the occupant’s home.

Several neighbors continue to be concerned about having an operational day care in their residential area.

“Someone in the last meeting said they are not sure that seven or eight children next door to their property would bother them," Lakeway resident Gretchen Nearburg said. "Really? Five or six days a week, eight to nine hours a day and all year round. I don’t think so. Please think about these things.”

Brynteson said she is also concerned about the neighbors.

“I don’t want my neighbor running a business,” she said. “The majority of people want to go home to their R1 sanctuary and get away from people, not to have extra traffic and extra promotions.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gretchen Vance responded by saying that a state-registered day care, such as the one King operates, is more regulated by the state, and can be restricted to up to three non-relative children.

“I don’t think that you [should] penalize someone for doing the higher work of being registered,” she said.

City Attorney Cobby Caputo also pointed out that the new language would not change the ordinance: “There's nothing really changing. We're trying to actually refine the ordinance to better fit the reality of what can happen, and to give more tools to the council to make these decisions.”

Trecker said he had contacted a large number of citizens to get their feedback, and the majority said they would not approve the ordinance.

“My responsibility is to the citizens I've represented. So I will not approve this ordinance,” he said.

According to the city, now that the home occupation ordinance is revised, King will have the opportunity to reapply for a home occupation permit.