The owner of the Barndominium in Lacy Lakeview made famous on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” was found guilty Thursday of a misdemeanor charge for using the property as a rental.
The jury also handed down a fine: $1.
Lacy Lakeview City Attorney David Deaconson said the jury found Kristi Bass guilty of a Class C misdemeanor of an ordinance violation. The citation stemmed from a complaint filed by one of the neighbors of the property in November 2016. Deaconson dismissed a similar citation Thursday. The complainant — now-former Lacy Lakeview City Councilman Steven Moore — has moved out of the county and asked that the charged be dropped because he didn’t want to return for a trial due to health issues, Deaconson said.
Deaconson offered his take on the nominal fine.
“I think their logic was, ‘She’s violating the ordinance but it didn’t really cause harm to the neighborhood,’ ” Deaconson said.
Attorney Susan Kelly, who represents Bass, said the jury was “conflicted and very sympathetic” to her client.
“They said they felt like she was singled out and that this was not fair,” she said.
Kelly said she will appeal the decision and seek a new trial.
“We believe the facts and the law support that she had an absolute right to rent out her property and never needed a permit,” she said.
Meanwhile, a civil suit filed by the city against Bass remains in the discovery phase, Deaconson said. The city of Lacy Lakeview sued Bass after twice citing her for renting out the location without a permit, and twice rejecting her requests for a permit. In May, Deaconson asked Judge Jim Meyer in McLennan County’s 170th State District Court to issue a temporary injunction blocking Bass from advertising the property at 123 Spring Creek Drive and renting it to visitors. Meyer denied the request in July.
Bass has faced opposition from council members and neighbors since opening the 16-acre location more than a year ago and hoping to capitalize on “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines’ popularity. The couple transformed the 2,700-square-foot former horse barn for former owners Todd and Lexia Meek in season 3, episode 11.
The site is about 10 miles from the Gaineses’ Magnolia Market at the Silos and fans of the hit television show rented the location for $1,200 to $1,500 per night depending on the time of year and were required to book at least two nights.
The location went up on VRBO — Vacation Rentals by Owner — in August 2016 shortly after Bass purchased the property in the city of about 6,500 people. Bass was among a wave of property owners tapping into the fan base of the cable television series that draws thousands of people each week to downtown Waco. The Gaineses themselves got in on the action and renovated a McGregor house into a bed and breakfast and called it the Magnolia House.
The Waco celebrities later opened the Hillcrest Estate in North Waco as a vacation rental, charging guests $995 per night, and requiring a two-night minimum. The Gaineses’ recently announced season five — which starts Nov. 21 — will be the last that they will film with HGTV.
Bass has reiterated she’s been singled out for selective prosecution, saying others have run bed-and-breakfast operations in the city of Lacy Lakeview for years without permits. However, Lacy Lakeview city council members argued there is a difference between a bed and breakfast where the property owner is on site 24 hours a day, and a vacation rental.
Neighbors of the property also protested Bass’ plans at multiple city council meetings, arguing a business operation in the area zoned for residential use would affect property values, increase traffic and cause myriad other problems.
The first citation against Bass filed Sept. 7 was prompted by Moore, a then-neighbor of the Barndominium.
Bass, a real estate investor, decided to sell the property in April. Jennifer Roberts, a Sotheby’s International Realty agent, and Bass’ sister, listed the property for $1.2 million.