The by-law on working from home was sent to the board of RVC

Rocky View County Council (RVC) has sent its proposed home business bylaw, as well as subsequent land use bylaw and municipal development plan amendments necessary to implement it, back to the drawing board. During January

Rocky View County Council (RVC) has sent its proposed home business bylaw, as well as subsequent land use bylaw and municipal development plan amendments necessary to implement it, back to the drawing board.

During a public hearing on the proposed changes on Jan. 10, planning staff from the county came up with a comprehensive proposal that would allow more intensive home-based businesses, such as trailer storage, outdoor wedding businesses and light industry, to continue to be allowed to set up on residential buildings under the designation type 3 (HBB3) in the Rocky View district, but under much stricter conditions.

Proposed changes included that applicants under the new HBB3 designation would have to undergo a change of land use to ensure their business is compatible with the underlying land use and obtain a development permit, which would require regular renewal. Non-resident employees would be allowed, but the company would have to submit a site plan and operational management plan to the County.

Under the proposed changes, a new upper limit would also be set for the size of outbuildings and the external footprint of businesses. This would mean that the home business could only use five percent of the property’s area or 4,000 square feet of space (whichever comes first) for outbuildings and the exterior footprint. There would also need to be a minimum 30 meter setback for those external footprints or outbuildings, including a 10 meter landscaping strip, to show the boundary between where the home business operates and the rest of the surrounding area.

Minimum parking requirements would also be implemented for HBB3 businesses of five stalls for every 100 square meters of the business’s gross development footprint.

The proposed changes would also establish a minimum lot size required for HBB3 operations of 1.90 acres and require the property owner to live on the site as their primary residence for at least one year prior to applying for an HBB3 permit.

After staff presented the proposed changes to council during a public hearing, councilors and members of the public in attendance immediately began voicing opposition to some elements of the proposed changes.

count. Sammantha Wright expressed concern about requiring the applicant to rezone the land, which is a permanent change in land use, just to operate on the site today. That permanent change would remain on the property’s land use, Wright argued, even if the company’s current owner moves from that location in the future.

“Is there some way to achieve this without attaching the land use amendment to the HBB3 process so that you don’t permanently designate it on the land?” she asked.

Staff told Wright that requiring the landowner to change the use of the land would ensure they would have to go before the council to get approval for their business before they could apply for permission to develop their business from home.

RVC resident Janet Ballantyne echoed Wright’s concerns in her comments to the council later in the hearing. Ballantyne said staff could certainly come up with a way for the council to have oversight of all HBB3 applications in the district without resorting to such drastic measures.

“I completely agree with the fact that there should be a public view of the public discussion,” she said. “But the council can hold public hearings for things other than land use amendments. So you should be able to give yourself the authority to say if it’s going to be HBB3… It doesn’t have to be a permanent land use. Home business goes with the land owner, not with the land.”

Another concern raised by Coun. Don Kochan was a requirement for HBB3 companies to have five parking spaces per 100 square meters of their company’s surface. The measure, according to Kochan, was largely applicable to special wedding event businesses, which may have large numbers of people coming out, and may not be necessary for HBB3 businesses that have customers coming and going throughout the day.

In response to these comments, staff said they were open to council’s feedback and suggestions on the matter.

However, one west Rocky View resident at the public hearing, Bev Copperforth, later told the council she didn’t understand why special event businesses like weddings and the like would even be allowed to apply for a home business license.

“A special events business is not a home business,” she argued. “Where they can have a home office where they respond to special event requests, they use an outbuilding that is out of the small garage of the warehouse building. They need a tent or a permanent facility to perform the core functions of their business – often with more than 50 people.”

She further stated that in her experience with local special event companies located near her family’s farm, those events were not even set up on the same lot as the landowner’s residence. Those companies, she argued, should apply for a special events license, with all the stricter requirements that go with it, for every wedding instead of being given carte blanche approval to operate under an HBB3 license.

The last major area of ​​contention raised by both sides. Al Schule and Coun. and Deputy Mayor Sunny Samra was a proposed requirement that a person wishing to start an HBB3 home business must have lived in Rocky View County as a primary residence for one year prior to applying for the HBB3 designation.

Staff explained that this proposed one-year occupancy period is intended to address a problem the RVC has under the current Business Live-Work designation, where some business owners have taken advantage of the loophole to build or purchase a home in a residential area, perhaps rent a portion of it to a tenant, and then establish what is effectively a full-time business location in a residential area outside of the spatial structure plan zoned for business.

Both Schule and Samra felt that the one-year residency requirement was excessive and proposed shortening the residency period required to meet residency standards to obtain an HBB3 permit.

In the end, the council voted to bring the entire home business discussion back to the council’s board of directors to address the concerns raised during the public hearing and make changes.

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