This text amendment establishes revised regulations for
allowing people to operate businesses out of their homes.
Citizen inquiries about working at home are increasingly
common; County records show 105 total Home Occupation
permits issued by Zoning in 1991, tripling to 308 by 2005.
This County trend reflects a broader national trend;
U.S. Census data showed 4.2
million Americans worked from home in 2000, a 23 percent
increase from the number of home-based workers in 1990.
According to a website devoted to supporting and tracking
small business activity, Smallbiz.com, home-based businesses
make up 53% of the small business population in the United
States. They serve as incubators for growing businesses.
The current home occupation regulations in the Ordinance
were first adopted in 1981. Over the years, they have been
amended many times to add specific new uses or to make minor
changes to standards, but the basic structure and approach
to home occupations has remained unchanged over the last 25
years. Rules which served as a reasonable accommodation to
home businesses are now badly out-of-date because of changes
in the way that modern businesses operate.
of the requests for home occupations received
by zoning staff do not fit well
within the current regulations, and staff is finding that
permits must increasingly be denied. In addition, the
existing home occupation regulations contain some
conflicting regulations which make their application
difficult in some instances.
Staff is recommending a total
rewrite of the provisions in order to change the structure
of the Ordinance and approach to home businesses. The
current regulations generally list specific allowable home
occupations, list prohibited occupations and then provide a
variety of standards for the uses. While this is not an
unusual structure for home-occupation Ordinances, this
approach is problematic because it is very difficult to keep
the Ordinance up-to-date with all potential viable home
occupations. Staff is suggesting a move toward a more
performance based set of criteria for home occupations.
The Board of Supervisors
initiated a text amendment related to Home Occupations on
August 10, 2006. The draft language provided to the Board
raised a number of concerns, and the resolution approved by
the Board did not include a recommendation for specific
language. The language being presented here represents a
refinement of the originally proposed language, based on the
Board’s direction to provide additional flexibility for
home-based businesses, and also based on additional research
and discussions with home-business operators and the Chamber
of Commerce representative. The Planning Commission held a
work session on the item on October 16, 2006, and proposed
changes from the work session have been incorporated into
the language of the amendment. The Planning Commission held
a public hearing on the amendment on October 26, 2006 and
unanimously recommended approval of the proposed
regulations. The Board of Supervisors conducted a public
hearing on November 9, 2006. The Board kept the public
hearing open to enable staff to work with any citizens who
still had comments and concerns about the proposed
Staff is proposing one
additional change to the Ordinance as recommended by the
Planning Commission. An issue has been raised as to whether
or not multiple home occupations are allowed. This issue
has arisen in the past, and by interpretation, the Zoning
Administrator has concluded that multiple home occupations
are allowed provided the cumulative impacts of such
occupations do not exceed those allowed for a single
occupation. An additional sentence has been proposed in
Section 6-301 to clarify this point.
The proposed revised text for
home occupations and related provisions for accessory uses,
are attached, with staff comments interspersed within the
Ordinance to provide background information and analysis.
The proposed text is shown highlighted in bold
underline. Deleted text is shown in
strikethrough. Staff commentary is in italics.
Note that in most cases, home
occupations are allowed zero or one outside employees.
Small contracting businesses (§ 5-202) are allowed up to
five on-site employees. The Planning Commission considered
whether to allow up to ten employees on parcels greater than
fifty acres but rejected this idea. The general feeling was
that businesses with ten employees belonged in a commercial
or industrial district. Supervisor Graham is considering
moving to amend the draft to allow up to ten employees for
small contracting businesses on parcels over fifty acres.