By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Property owners in rural

Albemarle

who want to operate businesses out of their homes may soon have an easier and less costly process for compliance with county rules.

The county

Planning Commission

endorsed earlier this week a set of amendments to the ordinances by which home occupation permits are handled in rural zoning districts. If approved by the

Board of Supervisors

next year, the changes will make all home occupations a by-right use in the rural area.


Listen using player above or download the podcast:


Download 20101221-APC-Home-Occupations


“We viewed these amendments as trying to promote rural enterprise,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning. “We feel [this will give] the opportunity for people to use their land and their property for purposes that prevent further rural subdivision.”

During the Planning Commission’s public hearing Tuesday, many commissioners sought examples of when a home occupation permit is needed.

“There are a couple of indicators that would lead you to need a home occupation [license],” said Joan McDowell, the county’s rural areas planner. “One would be if your business license lists your home as your base of business.”

However, if a business owner only occasionally works from home, no home occupation approval would be required.

Planning Commissioner

Cal Morris

said he was impressed by the amendments, which he said would clear up misunderstandings.

“A lot of people don’t understand the rules and then they get in trouble,” Morris said.

The existing Class A and Class B home occupation permits for the rural area will be renamed to minor and major.






Click for a larger view of a chart comparing the current changes and the proposed revisions


A minor permit would grant a property owner the right to operate a business out of a home, but would not allow for any employees to be hired unless they live in the residence. No customers could visit the site to purchase goods or services.

A major permit would be required for those businesses that have multiple employees and expect customers to visit. The business could also operate out of an accessory unit. Currently, a special-use permit is required for a Class B home occupation, requiring a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

Despite home occupations being converted to a by-right use, a property owner would still have to check with the county to ensure the proposed business did not violate the zoning code.

“Both minors and majors require a zoning clearance and it’s the request for the zoning clearance that will trigger the need for some notice to abutting parcel owners,” said deputy county attorney Greg Kamptner.

Only major permits would require neighbors to be notified of the request for the permit. They would have five business days to comment on the application.

The cost for the major permit will be reduced from a $2,000 fee to a $25 charge for the zoning clearance, though the applicant would have to cover the costs of notifying adjoining property owners.

For both permit types, no more than 25 percent of the home could be used for business purposes, but those seeking a major home occupation permit could apply for a waiver for a $425 fee.

Morgan Butler of the

Southern Environmental Law Center

said he supports the goal of the amendments, but was concerned they could lead to development in the rural area.

“The trick is to make legitimate home occupations more viable without creating a loophole that basically turns your rural areas into de facto commercial zoning districts,” Butler said. “The provisions limiting on-site sales are one of the most important provisions in here because they will ensure that these home occupations don’t become an end run around rezonings.”

Neil Williamson of the

Free Enterprise Forum

lauded the reduction in fees.

“The reduction in fee because of the reduction by county staff is beneficial and will certainly help rural enterprises,” Williamson said.

The amendments will go to the Board of Supervisors for their review early next year.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

:

01:30 – Commission Chair Tom Loach introduces Joan McDowell and her staff report

08:30 – Commissioner Cal Morris asks McDowell the steps to get a major license

10:30 – Commissioner Tom Loach asks when threshold gets crossed from personal use to home occupation

14:30 – Commissioner Cal Morris asks if there will be a notice period for adjoining property owners

16:00 – Commissioner Don Franco asks question about vehicle parking

23:10 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield asks where signs would be allowed

25:10 – Commissioner Linda Porertfield asks question about mulch

32:45 – Public comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center

37:30 – Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum

41:30 – Response to public comments from deputy attorney Greg Kamptner

46:30 – Loach asks question about whether waivers can be handled administratively

48:30 – Kamptner discusses potential for recovation of permit

55:00 – Vote

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