After weeks of meetings and attempts at compromise the Lansdowne Homeowner’s Association has given home businesses 13 months in which to comply with the community’s covenants. If businesses do not comply within the time period, they will face closure. Details on how a business could be made to be in compliance with the covenants has yet to be worked out, however.
It has been more than a month since the homeowner’s association voted to enforce the community covenant that states no businesses can be run out of a residence, only home offices.
"If a business is done out of a home office that is allowed," Eric Florence, president of the association, said. "But the covenant says there can be no significant traffic generated, no signage. It must just look like a residence."
WHILE THE ASSOCIATION said the covenant can affect many home businesses, Lansdowne’s home day cares are the businesses most likely to face closure under the enforcement. There are only a handful of home day cares in Lansdowne listed on the Department of Family Services Web site, but Janis Chamblin, Family Services’ manager of career support services, said there is no way to know how many unregistered day cares there are in the community.
"There’s many unregulated providers that we are not aware of," Chamblin said. "We can’t track family members taking care of children or homes with only one or two children."
Under the law, home child-care facilities with more than six children enrolled must be licensed by the state. Homes with fewer than six children are given the option to become licensed, but are not required.
"There are 105 licensed home providers countywide and 119 home day cares voluntarily registered," Chamblin said.
FLORENCE REFUTES the notion that the Lansdowne HOA is somehow targeting day cares, or is against home businesses.
"We are just following the procedure laid out for us," he said.
Florence said the covenant enforcement came about after a complaint was filed by a resident against a home day care.
"The HOA has to follow up on that complaint," he said. "To see if that business is in violation."
It was the complaint that brought day cares to the forefront of the home business debate, but Florence said any other business with a complaint against it would go through the same process.
SINCE THE MAY 2 vote, Florence said the association has tried to reach a compromise with the home business owners and came up with new language that would allow the home businesses to continue operating.
"The people for the day cares didn’t like the language [the association] came up with," Florence said. "Which led to the decision to enforce the existing covenant language. We’re not trying to close businesses; all we’re doing is trying to follow the process."
At the next association meeting, homeowners will work on clarifying the covenant language so it becomes clearer to business owners how much traffic will be allowed, Florence said. Following that, home business owners will have until July 1, 2008, to bring their businesses into compliance.
There is no indication what affect the possible closure of home day cares will have on the families of Lansdowne, but Chamblin said one thing is clear.
"Supportive child care has never met the demand as far as I have seen," she said. "Home day cares are vital to the community and working families."
— Erika Jacobson