Rocky View County (RVC) council has sent its proposed home-based business bylaw, and the subsequent land-use bylaw and municipal development plan changes needed to enforce it, back to the drawing board again.
During a Jan. 10 public hearing on the proposed changes, planning staff with the County brought forth a comprehensive proposal that would allow more intensive home-based businesses, such as RV storage, outdoor wedding event businesses, and light industrial, to still be allowed to set up on residential properties under a Type 3 (HBB3) designation in Rocky View County, but under much stricter conditions.
Proposed changes included that applicants under the new HBB3 designation would have to undergo land-use designation change 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 business would have to submit a site plan and operational management plan to the County.
A new cap would also be placed, under the proposed changes, on accessory building size and the businesses’ outside footprint. This would mean that the home-based business could only utilize five per cent of property area or 4,000 square metres of the space (whichever comes first) for accessory buildings and its outside footprint. There would also have to be a minimum 30-metre setback for these outside footprints or accessory buildings, including a 10-metre landscaping strip, to show the border between where the home-based business operates and the rest of the property’s surrounding area.
Minimum parking requirements would also be implemented for HBB3 businesses of five stalls for every 100 square metres of the business’ gross development footprint.
The proposed changes would also establish a minimal parcel size required for HBB3 businesses of 1.90 hectares, and would require the property owner to live on the site as his or her primary dwelling for at least one year before applying for the HBB3 permit.
After staff presented the proposed changes to council during the public hearing, councillors and members of the public who were present immediately began to voice opposition with some elements of the proposed changes.
Coun. Sammantha Wright expressed concerns about the requirement for the applicant to make a land-use redesignation, which is a permanent change to the land use, just to operate a business on the site today. That permanent change would stay on the property’s designated land use, argued Wright, even if the current business owner there moves off the site in the future.
“Is there any way to accomplish this without attaching a land-use amendment to an HBB3 process so you don’t have it designated on the land permanently?” she asked.
Staff told Wright that requiring the landowner to make the land-use change would ensure they have to come before council to get approval for their operation prior to seeking a development permit for their home-based business.
Wright was echoed in her concerns by RVC resident Janet Ballantyne in her comments to council later in the hearing. Ballantyne said staff could surely come up with a way for council to have oversight over any HBB3 applications in the county without resorting to such drastic measures.
“I completely agree with the fact that it should have the public scrutiny of a public hearing,” she stated. “But 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 is going to be HBB3 … It doesn’t need to be a permanent land use. The home-based business goes with the landowner, not the land.”
Another concern raised by Coun. Don Kochan was the requirement for HBB3 businesses to have five parking stalls per 100 square metres of their businesses’ footprint. The measure was, in large part, according Kochan, mainly applicable to special event wedding businesses, which may have large numbers of people coming out, and may not be required 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 issue.
However, one west Rocky View resident at the public hearing, Bev Copperforth, later told council that she didn’t understand why special event wedding businesses and the like would be allowed to apply for a Home-Based Business license at all.
“A special event business is not a home-based enterprise,” she argued. “Where they might have a home-based office where they respond to inquiries to execute a special event, they use a supplementary structure which is outside of a small garage of a storage building. They require a tent or permanent facility to operate the key functions of their business – often in excess of 50 persons.”
She went on to state in her experience of local special event businesses based near her family’s farm, that these events weren't even set up on the same parcel as the landowner’s residential dwelling. These businesses, she argued, should have to apply for a special event permit, with all the more rigid requirements that go along with that, for each wedding instead of being given carte blanche approval to operate under an HBB3 license.
The last main area of contention brought up by both Coun. Al Schule and Coun. and Deputy Mayor Sunny Samra was the proposed requirement that the person who wanted to start the HBB3 home-based business would have to live in Rocky View County as their primary residence for one year before applying for an HBB3 designation.
Staff explained this proposed one-year period of occupancy was intended to deal with the problem RVC has been having under the current Business Live-Work designation, where some business owners have taken advantage of a loophole in the bylaw to build or buy a house in a residential area, perhaps rent out some portion of it to a tenant, and then establish what in effect is a full-time business site in a residential area outside of an Area Structural Plan zoned for business.
Both Schule and Samra felt the one-year residency requirement was excessive, and proposed shortening the period of occupancy needed to meet the residency standard in order to obtain the HBB3 permit.
In the end, council voted to refer the whole Home-Based Business discussion back to council’s governance committee to address the concerns raised during the public hearing, and to make amendments.