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Carolina Beach To Consider Changes For Home Business Regulations

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider changes to rules governing "home occupations" at their upcoming December 11, meeting.
According to Town Senior Planner Jeremy Hardison, Council members Bob Lewis and Sarah Friede asked Planning Department staff to revisit the Town's Home Occupation standards. In a memo to the Planning Commission Hardison explained some concerns the department heard and have also struggled with under the current rules. Hardison explained that building code standards require that a standalone business meet commercial codes such as sprinklers or handicap accessibility, which have not been required in the past for a business use being conducted in the home. The new 2012 State Building Code regulations now require that home occupations that have clients in the home and occupy more than 10% of floor area meet commercial code standards.
Hardison explained, "Previous allowed in-home services, such as hairdressers, are not clearly stated within the current home occupation ordinance" but the Town has interpreted the ordinance over the years to permit such home-businesses.
He explained business deliveries are an issue because the current ordinance is "unclear about what types of trucks and volume of deliveries are to be conducted."
Hardison said one question is, "Should a home occupation provide additional off-street parking to its clients or should clients be able to go to the home at all?" He explained, "Additional cars parked in the driveway or street may be a nuisance on adjoining properties."
Hardison explained since the current ordinance was adopted advances in modern technology have allowed more business to be conducted in the home. One such type of home business is wholesale. Where people purchase items in bulk at a lower price, receive delivery and then sell on or other websites for a profit.
Hardison explained, "In addition to specifying the principle uses permitted in a particular district, the zoning ordinance provides for "accessory" or "incidental" uses. Home occupations have been regarded as accessory for residential uses. An "accessory use" is one that is customarily incidental and subordinate to the primary use of a parcel" as a home.
He explained, "The zoning ordinance regulations are intended to mitigate any known adverse impacts of a home occupation onto the surrounding residents, preventing the home occupations from superseding the dwelling unit's primary use as a residence, and from creating traffic levels not normally found in residential neighborhoods."
Hardison explained most communities including Carolina Beach have some allowances for business in residential homes. The Carolina Beach zoning ordinance allows the custom of carrying on certain occupations in the home in all zoning districts except industrial."
He explained, "The zoning ordinance has restricted home occupations by imposing a variety of limitations to protect the character of the residential neighborhood since the adoption of the 1979 zoning ordinance."
He explained that by restricting home occupations the Town has recognized that the character of residential districts must be protected from uses that are not customary, incidental or secondary to the predominate residential use.
Hardison explained, "Some historic home occupation uses allowed in Carolina Beach include tutoring, baking, sewing, making of handcrafted items, hairdressers, contractor's office, and Internet business."
He explained, "Finding the appropriate balance between the primary residential use and the accessory non-residential component can be a challenge - allowing homeowners and tenants the ability to conduct minor business related activities in their homes in a manner that protects neighborhood character, maintains surrounding property values and minimizes negative nuisance impacts for adjoining residents."
Hardison offered four options to the Planning and Zoning Commission at their November 8th, meeting.
Planning Commissioner Brett Keeler questioned, "Why is pretty much everything that's been pinpointed is based on hair dressers?"
Planning Director Ed Parvin said, "That's just a common activity that people ask for."
Parvin said the Council members that brought the issue forward, "Wanted clarification. Hairdressers was a big one. What you can and cannot do in your home and... deliveries was an issue we were having" due to wholesale Internet businesses generating higher traffic of UPS and FedEx deliveries. He said, "We've seen that happen in Carolina Beach" and stopped that situation because that was not normal traffic for a residential area.
Parvin said, "We want to clarify what businesses we want to allow in homes."
The Planning Commission chose from four options, each varying in the degree of what home occupations would be allowed and regulations.
They chose option four that is a less restrictive option that would allow more flexibility in uses to be conducted for home-businesses. If no clients or no additional traffic is generated as a result of the business being conducted, then the home-occupation would be permitted "by right." If on-site services are conducted that exceed 10% of the floor area or any additional traffic would be generated, then a conditional use permit (CUP) would be required.
A CUP requires public hearings before the Planning Commission and Town Council to allow for expert testimony on a proposed permit allowing the Council to attach conditions following review. 
All options maintain home-occupations and cannot be permitted in a detached structure such as a shed or freestanding garage. Although connecting a garage to the house would resolve that requirement.
Commissioner Leanne Pierce said, "I'm a firm believer... if it's zoned residential it's to be residential. It's not to be a business. And I already think you allow hairdressers which to me, I don't even know why you would allow that in a residential neighborhood because you got people in and out of hairdresser shops, not being specific but I know several that you're talking about that are in residential neighborhoods which I really don't care about but I'm sure if I was next door I might."
She explained, "They use more water. I pay commercial water taps at all of my commercial properties which are $97 per month which they don't have to pay. They are using residential water... I already think you allow things I don't particularly think should be allowed." She said someone working on a computer from home is one thing, but it's different when clients are visiting. She said, "Every hairdresser I know has three people sitting and waiting."
Commissioner Greg Reynolds said in the current economy, "I would have a hard time supporting reducing things unless we have a problem."
Pierce said, "If you want to open a business you need to do what everybody else has to do, go pay and buy a permit and go buy property."
Reynolds said commercial space is limited on the Island and he doesn't have a problem with small home-occupations.
The new state building code 10%-rule requiring a home-occupation requires that where clients occupy more than 10% of the floor area, a business must make commercial upgrades as mandated by the State, not the Town. Currently the Town ordinance permits up to 25% use of a floor in a home for a home-occupation.
Reynolds said in this coastal area where most structures are elevated, adding in a handicap access ramp would be costly for such home-businesses. He said the definition of 10% floor area needs clarification. He said, "If you have to do commercial parking, it's almost impossible" in a residential area.
Reynolds said, "The 10% rule becomes a fairly safe threshold. Right now it's 25%."
Currently the Town has five permitted hairdressers operating as home-occupations.
Commissioner Keeler said option four includes the CUP permit option which unlike a definite list of permitted uses, that process could add a level of flexibility.
Planning Director Ed Parvin explained on Monday November 26, that all existing home-based businesses will be "grandfathered in" under the regulations they were originally permitted under.
Meaning those currently operating would not fall under any new or amended rules as long as they maintain their privilege license and continue to adhere to those regulations they started under.
Those seeking a permit or operating without a permit would be required to adhere to the new rules.
Commissioner Keeler made a motion to recommend Town Council approve option four with the addition that during a CUP hearing the applicant can ask to use an accessory building by waiving the existing rule prohibiting that use.
Also, to cap the floor area permitted for a home-occupation at 25% and the definition of floor area includes "any area that is used at anytime during the operation or business activity."
Keeler added that any business not listed could be requested during the conditional use permit process.
The uses listed in option four are: Offices, Tutoring, Beauty Salons, Off-site services and "Manufacturing such as baking, sewing, and/or handicrafts that are normally made in the home. The Commission voted four to two on Keeler's motion.
The recommendation will be considered by the Council at their upcoming December 11, meeting at 6:30PM at Town Hall.