Daycare's fate heads to appeal

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By Calen McKinney

A Campbellsville woman who was denied a permit to open a daycare in her home has asked a judge for another chance.

Tonya Gowdy, who lives on Bell Avenue, made a request to the Campbellsville Board of Zoning & Adjustments on July 22 for a permit to operate a daycare at her home.

According to minutes from the Board's meeting, which were filed in Taylor Circuit Court records on Aug. 23, members discussed Gowdy's request at length before making a decision.

The minutes state that two people spoke against Gowdy being granted the permit. One said she doesn't want a business near an apartment complex. The other said he wasn't granted a request to open a business at his home, and therefore, Gowdy shouldn't be either.

A Board member said the issue isn't that Gowdy wants to open a daycare, only that allowing her to do so would be granting approval for a business to operate in a residential area.

After some discussion, the minutes state, Gowdy's request was denied "to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood."

Chris Tucker, administration of Campbellsville Planning & Zoning Commission, wrote Gowdy a letter the following day about the Board's decision. The letter states that Gowdy has the right to appeal the decision.

And on Aug 23, Gowdy did just that by filing paperwork at the clerk's office. As such, her case is now proceeding through the civil court system.

Gowdy, who is representing herself in her appeal of the Board's decision, writes in her paperwork that "untrue" statements were made during the hearing about her request and she has new evidence to support her position.

Gowdy is requesting a hearing, which she wrote will give an opportunity to review the new evidence and a petition signed by those who are in favor of her daycare.

Also entered into court records is a letter Gowdy wrote to Tucker on Aug. 21.

According to that letter, Gowdy claims that some discussion at the July 22 hearing wasn't included in the minutes. Speaking to that, Tucker wrote Gowdy a letter in response stating that part of the hearing was not recorded, either because of a recording or human error.

Gowdy wrote to Tucker that it was stated during her hearing that there isn't a need for a daycare business in the area. However, she wrote, she has confirmed four families in the area who have stated they would use her daycare service.

Gowdy wrote that she went to residents in the neighborhood with a petition to allow her to operate her business. She states that 27 people signed the petition and a copy of the signatures is included in court records.

Two of the six property owners who live adjacent to her property, Gowdy wrote to Tucker, objected to her daycare.

Gowdy wrote that, if granted a business permit, she wouldn't make any outside changes to her home. Her back yard is fenced, she wrote, and all activity during daycare hours will be controlled.

Also attached to Gowdy's appeal of the Board's decision are two letters, each from residents in favor of allowing her to open the business.

One states that the writer knows Gowdy and believes that she would care for her grandson in a good and clean environment.

The other letter states that Gowdy has experience working with children, at First Baptist Church's daycare and Campbellsville Independent School System's Family Resource Center.

On Tuesday, Gowdy said that she believes the Board not granting her request is unfair.

"I feel like I need to be heard again," she said.

Gowdy said she was told that she had all materials and met the requirements to operate a business in her home. All she lacks is approval from the zoning board.

"I just didn't think I was being done fairly," she said.

Gowdy said zoning officials inspected her home and have found that it meets all code requirements.

She said another neighbor once asked to operate an automotive business at his home and that was turned down because of the nature of the business. But childcare, she said, isn't the same as an automotive business.

"It's no different than kids in the neighborhood," she said.

Gowdy is working another job now, she said, but that's not what she wants to do. And she said she doesn't want to give up on her dream of operating a daycare.

"I'm just trying to provide for my family and do something I enjoy doing."

Tucker said on Tuesday that Gowdy's home is in an area that has been zoned R2, which is a medium density area. He said no businesses are allowed in that zone without a conditional permit.

He said Gowdy's home does meet the other requirements for a business, some of which include the business taking up less than 30 percent of the home and not having more than one full-time employee.

Nevertheless, he said, Board members agreed to deny the request to preserve the neighborhood.

Tucker said City Attorney John Miller will likely represent the Board in Gowdy's case. At press time, there has been no official response filed to Gowdy's appeal and there are no upcoming court dates set in the case.

Miller didn't return a request for comment by press time.