Just what kind of work can you do out of your home? City hall wants to update the bylaw – let them know what you think.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  March 14, 2013  The guy with the monster house doesn’t want the guy in the bungalow a few doors down  operating a Home Based Business where he grooms pets in the back yard or has a lawn mower repair business.

Burlington currently has a bylaw that limits what you can and cannot do in terms of business in your home; however don’t expect to see the bylaw officer going door to door snooping around.

In this city by law enforcement is a – “if you call us we will look into it”.  They are not pro-active but rather re-active.  When you call they do look into the concern you have quite promptly and more often than not manage to resolve the problem.

Is this an acceptable home business? What if the hairdresser is doing a wedding party and there are 10 cars parked outside the house?

Someone at city hall said “Home based businesses are a growing and dynamic part of Burlington’s local economy.”, which is a bit of a stretch.  Examples of home-based businesses include hairdressers, music lessons and pet grooming.  We take our lawn mower over to a place west of us for repairs where the work is done in the garage of a home in an average community.  The man we use asked us not to say anything because “his daughter works at city hall”.

City hall has decided to look into what is happening in the home based business sector and recently held a focus group where they  took  part in a 1 ½ -hour focus session about home-based businesses in Burlington.  The participants got $50 for their efforts.  There was one person from each ward, people who operate a home-based business,  people who live next door to, or near-by to a home-based business and    people who live in single detached, semi-detached, or multi-residential units including townhouse, condo, or apartment.

The focus group was held early in February and the results are in the hands of the planners who want to now get input from a wider audience and are talking to the Business in Burlington crowd that is herded by James Burchill.  Many of his 2000 plus members work out of their homes.  Some certainly carry inventory and perhaps ship from their home address.

The planners want to hear from people who work from their homes.  The bylaw that governs all this is set out below:

The following regulations for home occupation uses are set out in the bylaw:

The residential appearance and character of the dwelling must be maintained and no exterior alteration is permitted;

The home occupation is not permitted in a garage, but is permitted in a basement or cellar;

The home occupation is restricted to 25% of the floor area of a dwelling above grade;

The employees of the home occupation must be residents of the dwelling;

Retail sales are not permitted unless the goods are ancillary to the main home occupation use;

Outside storage and display is prohibited although goods may be stored in a garage provided they are not visible from the outside.

No equipment or process is allowed which may become a public nuisance in regard to persistent noise, odour, fumes, vibration, glare, electrical interference, traffic or parking.

In addition, the zoning regulations stipulate: music, dance, singing and physical fitness activities are only permitted in detached dwellings;  the following uses are only permitted in detached dwellings located on streets with a deemed width of 26m or larger:  medical or health care office, hairstylist, aesthetician or complementary health care.

City hall staff felt there was a need to update and clarify the home occupation zoning regulations and wanted to review the following:

Was a definition of “personal service;” needed?

Should home occupation uses be permitted on all streets?

Should there be a limit to the number of customers present at one time at a home occupation use?

Should uses such as dog grooming, dog daycare and dog training be permitted as home occupation uses?

Whether to allow on-line sales where there is no home pick-up and restricted inventory.

One of the Art in Action events that take place in private homes as part of their annual Studio Tour. Clearly not a home business but their event confused people at city hall. Did it need a license?

A few years ago the Art in Action group, that holds a Studio Tour where several artists gather in a home and display their art and sell from the location, ran into problems with city hall and had to put out dollars for a license.  That problem got resolved and last year’s tour had one group of artists meeting in the home of the Mayor.  Clearly there are exceptions.  The Mayor wasn’t given a favour – but that situation drew attention to the need for clearer regulations.

Some of the thoughts the bureaucrats are having don’t square all that well with the real world of people who work out of their homes.  What is positive about this process is that city hall is reaching out.    It is now up to those people who work out of their homes and have opinions to make their views known – this is a two-way street.

If you have a viewpoint let city hall know.  The staffer on this file can be reached at: Rosalind.Minaji@burlington.ca

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1 comment to Just what kind of work can you do out of your home? City hall wants to update the bylaw – let them know what you think.

  • tony millimgton

    Keep up the good work and I thought I was connected. You keep me informed and I do appreciate the effort.