A city councillor is worried that plans to broaden the base of home-based businesses in Maple Ridge could chip away at the haul that the city makes in commercial property taxes.
“I think it’s going to shrink our commercial base,” said Coun. Bob Masse.
Council is currently reviewing the bylaw that regulates home-based businesses. A plan to overhaul those rules has received second reading and has been sent to public hearing for sometime in the new year.
“We’re allowing businesses throughout the entire single-family residential class,” said Masse, who has a chiropratic business in the downtown.
That will attract shops out of the downtown and commercial areas into the suburbs.
“To me it’s very significant. We’re trying to grow our commercial sector, where we get our actual tax revenue from … it undercuts that.”
Home businesses are allowed in most homes throughout Maple Ridge already, but the new bylaw just expands the range, size and variety of businesses that would be allowed to operate out of a residence.
But that will just encourage business owners to close their shops and operate out of their home.
“It’s going to mean higher residential property taxes because it’s going to mean less commercial tax revenue,” Masse said.
If the changes pass final reading next year, Maple Ridge will have some of the most liberal rules for home-based businesses, he added.
But Masse admits he’s the only one on council who feels that way.
Coun. Craig Speirs supported the changes, saying that encouraging home businesses will help new businesses get a foothold.
“For me, it’s about growing the sector, letting people bring their employment home and contributing to the local economy.”
Once established, those home-based businesses could then occupy their own premises.
The changes proposed call for creating four types of home-based business. Type 1 would encompass businesses operating out of condos and townhouses, while Types 2-4 would encompass businesses in single family lots, based on lot size.
Most homes currently are allowed to have home-based businesses, but under the proposals, most lots also would be allowed to have accessory buildings that can be used for the business.
As well, the types of businesses that would be allowed would be expanded as would the area of a residence that could be allocated for a home business.
There will be minimal changes, though, to businesses operating out of townhomes or condos. Those currently allow only one non-resident employee to work there, providing there’s enough parking. And only when that business is a tutor or educational type of business are people allowed to visit the premises, with a limit of six clients visiting per day.
However, the bylaw does propose to allow the area of the small business to expand from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the premises, subject to a 50-sq.-metre maximum.
A staff report notes that strata councils can still ban home-based businesses from their complexes if they want.
Another proposal is that customers be allowed to visit home-based business, subject to daily maximum limits.
For example, only 10 clients a day would be able to visit a home in a Type 2 residence, which would be lots less than a third of an acre.
Removing any requirements for home businesses to provide on-site parking is also recommended.
Some of new terms in the proposed changes include personal services, which comprises beauty salons, hair dressing, dry cleaning, personal trainers, animal services and weight-loss clinics, while excluding overnight boarding of dogs, adult entertainment and pawn shops.
Some of the expressly prohibited uses under the bylaw amendments include manufacturing, musical training, daycares in certain zones, retail sales, as well as modifying the exterior of a house in a way that detracts from its residential purposes.
The recommendations come from the home-based business task force created last year by the city’s economic development committee.
Economic development manager Lino Siracusa said the issue has been reviewed a lot and the city wants to create an environment where home businesss grow and prosper while also being good neighbours. A third of all businesses in the city are already operated out of homes, he added.
“We don’t believe it will have a detrimental effect to the businesses in the town centre.”