Lakeway passes revised squatting ordinance to rethink daycare rules

Bianca King addresses the Lakeway City Council at their June 21 meeting. (Jennifer Schaefer/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Lakeway City Council amended its squatting ordinance at its June 21 meeting, but will consider adding a subsection to the ordinance specific to home day care at its July meeting.

This follows months of administrative and legal battles with local daycare owner Bianca King.

King runs a state-registered daycare center outside of her Lakeway home. According to the court document, in addition to two children of her own, aged 2 and 4, she can look after up to four children of preschool age. She opened her business in January 2021 to support herself after being laid off during the pandemic.

Some of the rules for doing business from home were clarified by the council during a discussion. One of these was to define the term harassment to conform with state law. Under state law, nuisance is defined as “a condition that significantly impairs the use and enjoyment of land by causing undue discomfort or annoyance to persons of normal sensitivity attempting to use and enjoy it.”

“It annoys me when someone moves in and does whatever they want,” said Beverly Banfield, a neighbor of King’s. “Please make sure… try to remind us that we have to endure the traffic. And if it’s this business, then what if it’s something that someone else doesn’t want in their neighborhood?”

King also requested a council revisit that would allow an independent contractor to work in the home at the same time as the primary homeworker. She also asked the council to consider the rule, which does not allow outdoor storage or display related to squatting, as there is a playscape associated with her business in her garden.

“It’s difficult for me to reasonably comply with the ordinance because it doesn’t allow for squat-related storage or display,” King said. “I have my toys and playscape in the backyard and would be forced to remove them. I suggest you add that non-hazardous and residential-appropriate items are allowed.”

King’s attorney, Erica Smith, of the Institute for Justice, said she thinks the draft squatting ordinance has been significantly improved following last month’s meeting at which the council made amendments.

“[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,” she said.

Just behind King’s house is the eighth hole of Live Oak golf course at the Hills of Lakeway Country Club. After the city received a complaint about King’s business, the city contacted her in August and told her that, according to the court document, she needed additional permission to continue her operations.

King went through a hearing by the commission in November, where she was denied permission for the first time. After King appealed the decision to the Adjustment Committee, she was challenged again in February, shortly after which she filed a lawsuit against the city to keep her business afloat.

The city and the law firm reached an agreement in early March that allows King to continue operating her business while the litigation continues, said Jarrod Wise, Lakeway’s director of communications.

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

King sued the city after being denied a necessary permit to operate and being ordered to close her day care facility in February. The permit was denied on the grounds that it violated two of the 19 home business rules listed in the city’s squatting ordinance, which outlines the rules a business must follow in order to be licensed to operate.

The lawsuit with King prompted the city to review its existing ordinances. On April 6, members of the Zoning and Planning Commission viewed a preliminary 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 were removed; three have been substantially modified; four were cleared; and three were not changed.

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