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Thread: Home Occupation....or Illegal Business...or Neither

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Home Occupation....or Illegal Business...or Neither

    OK, need some help on this one. There is this lady (we'll call her Helga) that complains CONSTANTLY about her neighbor (we'll call her Bertha). Apparently, Bertha is allowing her son to store his lawn mower, weed wacker, rake, etc. at her house. He will come get it a couple times a week to mow other peoples lawns (technically a lawn service).

    Under our ordinance, a home occupation is defined as anything that is conducted entirely upon ones property. I don't consider this a home occupation - it is not conducted on the property at all. I would consider a nail salon, hair salon, piano teacher, things of that nature to fall under the home occupation definition. They actually perform a service, or offer goods at their homes, in which the public comes to for those goods or services.

    OK, so in the case of Helga vs. Bertha. I asked a fellow planner, and she said in her opinion, if someone uses their property make money it should be considered a business. If the property is residential, then the business is illegal.

    Here is where I have a problem with that. What about the Avon or MaryKay lady? What about some old guy that makes wood crafts to sell only at craft shows. What about someone that mows his neighbors lawn for some cash. In these instances, the people are not performing a service or offering goods ON their property, they are not attracting customers to their home and increasing traffic, and they are is not any signage, and any advertising would only contain a phone number, and not an address.

    In my opinion, Helga vs. Bertha is a similar situation, and therefore not an illegal business. What do you guys think - am I half baked on this? Missing something? Help me out...how do you deal with this type of issue.

    Another question while I'm at it. **IF** it is illegal, how the hell do you stop it. There have been no other neighbors complaining about this at all, and I have never witnessed him loading and unloading his equipment. Short of staking him out, I doubt I will. I have no proof of him even doing this.

    Thanks much!
    Christine

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    My opinion....

    The guy is using the garage for its intended purpose...storage. The neighbor should mind her own business. It would be a home business if the guy fixed and repaired landscaping equipment at the house and people dropped things off and picked them up, money was exchanged at the house. I hate whiny neighbors like Bertha.

  3. #3
         
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    I agree with you both!

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The intent of a home occupation ordinance, IMHO, is to allow resident to run businesses out of their homes, in a manner that preserves the residential character of a neighborhood.

    When a home occupation involves using the house as a base of operations, with business transactions being conducted off-site, it has less of an impact on the neighborhood than an enterprise where customers visit the house to conduct their business. Some home occupation ordinances actually prohibit on-site customer visitation.

    What meaningful difference is there between commuting to the office, and having a home ocupation where most work is conducted off-site?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    Even if you decide that it is a home occupation, I wouldn't see it as a problem. Our code has home occupations as a permitted use...."Customary home occupations engaged in by the occupant of a dwelling not involving the conduct of a business on the premises, including also a professional office when located in the same dwelling occupied by such person as his or her private dwelling."

    So basically, if people are coming to your house to conduct business, it is not allowed. Storing of items used for business, in my opinion, should be allowed. If this guy had people coming there to rent the equipment, that obviously would be another story.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  6. #6
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    I don't consider it a problem, but then...my wife and I make candles at our house to sell at a local craft mall, so I'm not exactly objective here.

    What's the difference between him coming buy twice a week to visit his family vs coming by twice a week to pick up his lawnmowing gear? I think the purpose of Home Occupation ordinances is to minimize traffic and noise impacts...my neighbor's teenage son probably causes more disturbance every night with his booming car stereo than this guy collecting his lawn mowing gear.

    Look at the letter of your ordinance, and see exactly what it says.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    To expound on Dan's point, I work in an office. I bring home my laptop and a breifcase full of materials every night. I USE them, rather than just set them aside out of sight. Under Bertha's argument that its a business use of a residence, isn't my situation a bigger violation than Helga's son?

    It sounds to me like a neighborly snit.

  8. #8
          Downtown's avatar
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    Originally posted by bturk

    It sounds to me like a neighborly snit.
    agreed. We wouldn't get involved unless since it isn't commercial landscaping equipment per se. Now if he was storing snow plows, etc, on the lawn, different story.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    A snit weighs in with a question of her own.

    I don't think that it sounds like he is running a home occupation either based on your definition. Here's another scenario, inspired by a neighborly snit of my own. It doesn't involve the conduct of business on the property, exactly, since there are no "customers" per se.

    The next door neighbor makes his living managing property that he owns, nearly 100 units all and all. His driveway runs right along our shared lot line. He has three or four vehicles that he and his "contractors" (term applied Very Loosely -- picture the people that you'd least like to see coming and going next door, that's them) use in the course of his business -- just pick-up trucks and vans, so there's nothing illicit about him having them on his property. The garage is used as his primary storage facility and base of operations, though not as an office. His office business seems to be conducted via cell phone as he stands in the driveway hollering obscenities back and forth with his tenants and workmen. So, basically, he and his contractors barrel in and out of the driveway at all hours of the day and night, sometimes making several runs in the course of an hour. While they are there they "negotiate the terms of their contracts" (e.g. yell back and forth at each other) and open and close the noisy garage door. To make matters worse, the guy lives on the second floor and doesn't have a doorbell so people stand in the driveway and shout at the house to get his attention. It is, for sure, more noise, traffic and general commotion than generally the case in a residential neighborhood.

    My initial inquiries with local zoning enforcement here indicate that they see it as a prohibited business, rather than a permitted home occupation, based on the fact that he meets contractors at his property and rents are delivered there. Since I imagine that he wouldn't have to pay some of these guys much to make my life, Really Miserable, I haven't followed up by bugging the poor inspectors to stake him out.

    Just curious, how do your codes address situations like this one? Property management: permitted home occupation or prohibited business or ???

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    We would not prohibit the business activity, but we prohibit the parking of "commercial vehicles" on residential property.

    Fropm our code:

    F. Private Residential Parking: Open parking of cars accessory to a residence use shall be limited to those actually used by the residents, or for temporary parking of guests.

    G. Parking of trucks, trailers, and equipment: No truck, commercial trailer, camping trailer, or other vehicular equipment of a commercial or industrial nature shall be parked regularly on a lot in any district except where permitted as a use in an industrial or commercial district as hereinafter specifically provided for as follows....

  11. #11

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    Our Zoning scheme makes provision for what we call an Occupational Practice.

    In terms of this classification a person may, from a single residential zoned property, operate a business employing not more than 2 full time staff, not generating excessive client vehicular activity or parking requirements, and not exceeding 40m in extent.

    At the same time we have legislation that limits the parking of large vehicles in residential areas for extended periods or on a regular basis. Our primary land use planning ordinance also limits panning decisions to reasons affecting the wellbeing of the community, or where the activity will result in the direct loss of real rights in property for another land owner.

    In a case such as this I would tell the neighbour to please refrain from waisting an overworked and under payed Council Employee's valuable time.

    Unless it can be shown that the storage of the machine causes a direct loss of privacy, is an eyesore, disrupts the peace, affects the reasonable use of the neighbours property for single residential purposes, or negitavely affects the character of the residential area, the neighbour has no leg to stand on.

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