After an almost two-year struggle, Lakeway resident Bianca King finally received a home business permit in August to run her children's day care, Rainbow's Edge.

King had previously been denied twice for a permit and filed a lawsuit with the city in 2022, claiming Lakeway's home business ordinance was unreasonable to the point of violating the state constitution.

Later that year, several changes were made to Lakeway's home business ordinance, including the reduction from 19 to 10 requirements, and the addition of home day care criteria.

How we got here

King, who is a sole income provider for her two children, established the day care during the pandemic after getting laid off from her job. In January 2021, it was registered with Texas Health and Human Services and later passed a voluntary state inspection that allowed her to care for up to four children in addition to her own.

King's home backs up to the tee box at the eighth hole of the Live Oak Golf Course. In August 2021, she received a notice from the city that her business required a special use permit to continue operation. This notice followed a complaint to the city from three golfers, including former Mayor Joe Bain, who lived on her same street, according to court documents.

"When you walk by, drive by, you can see the kids out playing, which is fine, but there is a noise issue there," Bain said at King's first public hearing with the zoning and planning commission. "There's going to be toys out there, and they're right on the golf course."

Throughout King's legal and administrative battle with the city, several residents also voiced concerns about potential parking congestion and property devaluation in relation to home businesses.

"With the original home occupation ordinance, your business had to be completely 'undetectable.' You basically couldn't have an inventory of goods or sell services," said Jared McClain, King's attorney with the Institute for Justice. "Lakeway had one of the most restrictive laws that we've seen across the country."

At the time, the city had only approved one special-use permit for a home day care since 2016.

What changed?

King said she attended 13 public hearings and revised her permit application several times to meet the requirements of the ordinance.

On June 20, the city came to a unanimous agreement to give a one-year permit that would allow her to accommodate five "client children," in addition to her own, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Before, King was allowed to contract a replacement care provider as needed, but now she is limited to 20 days of substitution per year.

Why does it matter?

Child care shortages are an issue statewide and within Austin due to funding challenges and lack of staffing. Travis County alone saw a 16.2% decrease in child care providers from 2020 to 2022, according to HHSC licensing data.

"Neighborhood home child care offers a nurturing environment and home away from home that most young children require, without being overcrowded or having rotating caregiving staff," King said. "It is important for cities to support them so they do not rob parents of their choices."

The future

McClain said the changes made by City Council have made it easier for most home businesses in Lakeway to receive a permit; however, home day cares are now required to get the specifics of their business operations approved with City Council, which can introduce challenges.

While King said she still wishes the state and city permits were aligned, she is nonetheless thankful for the work of the City Council.

"This was an important first step for the city to help create awareness of the need for neighborhood home day cares and the changing demographics of the city," King said.