Chairperson, Regional District of Nanaimo
Everyone's heard the old saying "One person's ceiling is another person's floor." In today's rapidly changing world, the updated version could well be one person's home-based business is another person's backyard.
The Regional District of Nanaimo introduced its home-based business regulations in 1984 with zoning Bylaw 500. Among other things, these home-based business provisions didn't allow non-resident employees. They also didn't permit the sale of goods not produced on-site, restricted how much space in the home the business could occupy, and in the case of a rural zoning, limited the size of an outbuilding that could be used to operate a domestic-industry-classified home-based business.
Our economy has seen major upheavals in the past 16 years. The Internet is one example of a force that has transformed communications and the nature of work. Small business is now the main creator of jobs in B.C. and accounts for 99% of businesses in the province. Although we don't have exact numbers on the current number of home-based businesses in the RDN, according to the 1996 Census, 13% of those employed in the region, reported they worked out of their homes.
Considering the importance of home-based business to our regional economy, it's timely to review and update the RDN's home-based business regulations. The RDN Board decided the first step was gathering input from the community. One major issue is what range of activities- from arts and crafts to food products to automotive repairs -should be permitted. Other issues include where these activities should be located, the maximum size of the business, should there be non-resident employees, and should home-based businesses be licensed.
The challenge of updating the home-based business regulations will be achieving the right balance. We need to consider both the needs of residents who depend on using their homes for their economic livelihood and those of neighbours who don't want the enjoyment of their home and property compromised by noise, traffic or other activities associated with running a business. We must also consider the potential for larger home-based businesses on rural lots.
The RDN Planning Department is about to conclude its initial public consultation on the home-based business regulation review. This process included six open houses and community forum events held throughout the region. This summer the RDN Board will receive a report detailing the public input received as well as comments from organizations such as residents associations, chambers of commerce, the Ministry of Small Business, Agricultural Land Commission, and Central Vancouver Health Region. Based on this input, the Board will decide on how to proceed with drafting proposed new home-based business regulations that strike the right balance for both our local economy and residential quality of life.