Changes could be coming to regulations around home-based businesses and how the City of Nanaimo issues business licences for them.
On Monday night, city staff presented councillors with the results of a home-based business regulation bylaw review, which was requested by councillors nearly three years ago.
According to a staff report by Amrit Manhas, the city’s economic development officer, there are an estimated 2,300 licensed home-based businesses operating in the city and that during the review process the most common concerns were around traffic, parking and noise.
Staff, as a result of the review, have recommend a number of changes to the existing bylaw such as relaxing regulations around allowable return-vehicle trips from a home-based business, signage and parking as well as changing the number of non-resident employees allowed on the premises.
The report also recommends implementing a new classification system for lot sizes by dividing them into three categories.
Certain services would be prohibited based on the classification system, according to the report, which states that apartments and condos would not be allowed to offer “personal services” such as hair, skin, nails, personal wellness, tattoos and micro-blading.
Bill Corsan, deputy director of community development, told councillors on Monday the existing bylaw hasn’t been updated in more than 25 years and a review was worth undertaking. He said 40 per cent of all business licenses issued by the city are for home-based businesses, which employ around 3,400 people.
“It is a very significant sector,” he said.
Corsan said the city has two definitions for a home-based business: businesses operated directly out of a home and the businesses where the home is considered a ‘base’ for the business. He said a new classification system is being recommended because the city’s current bylaw applies to every property in the city regardless of its size and is also somewhat confusing around how much space a person can occupy within a home.
“Smaller lots or people living in stratas or condominiums probably should have a few more restrictions on their property,” he said.
The city’s existing bylaw requires that all home-based businesses have parking spaces for customers. However, Corsan said with many people having online businesses that don’t require customers to come to their property, the rule should be relaxed.
Coun. Don Bonner said he was pleased to see the parking spot requirement for home-based online businesses being removed, but would like to see more data around business licences, adding that he suspects there are more home-based businesses than the city knows about.
“I think it’s a growing business. I think the fact that because we had parking requirements associated with them, it’s probably a lot larger than the 40 per cent and I hope that all the people that do work at home come forward,” he said.
Coun. Zeni Maartman said she felt there were inconsistencies with some of the regulations recommended by staff, adding that it doesn’t seem to make sense that beauty-related businesses such as salons are not allowed but businesses like chiropractors are allowed.
“Wouldn’t the traffic be about the same for both of those?” Maartman asked, adding that if the city is going to allow one, it should allow the other.
Councillors voted unanimously to receive the report.
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