Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Raymond E. Graham, Chairman, Cedar Run District Supervisor


December 14, 2006


Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development




A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Sections 3-302, 5-200, 6-102, 6-300 and 15-300 to Amend the Regulations Authorizing Home Occupations and Related Accessory Use Provisions


Topic Description:

This text amendment is one of a series of text amendments being brought forward to improve the clarity and flexibility of the Zoning Ordinance, with particular emphasis on supporting and promoting business development.  This amendment addresses home occupations.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.

Staff Update: 

The Board of Supervisors conducted a public hearing on November 9, 2006.  At that hearing, one citizen, Mr. Matt Souter, expressed various concerns about the Ordinance.  He was requested to work with staff on his concerns.  In response, the staff e-mailed Mr. Souter to schedule a meeting.  When Mr. Souter did not reply, he was called.  During that call, he explained that he was busy and would call back to schedule a meeting.  Staff is awaiting the call back.


Summary Staff Report:


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,, 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   Rules which served as a reasonable accommodation to home businesses are now badly out-of-date because of changes in the way that modern businesses operate.   Increasingly, many 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 amendment. 

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.


Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Office of Economic Development

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