Victoria council cuts red tape for home-based businesses

Up to three home-based businesses will be permitted to operate out of a single residence in Victoria.

In a move staff described as cutting red tape, Victoria councillors agreed on Thursday to amend zoning bylaw regulations governing home occupations to increase the number of permitted home- based businesses to three from one.

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The change to the bylaw will bring Victoria in line with other local municipalities, Quinn Anglin, city business ambassador told councillors.

“The city regularly receives home-based business-licence applications submitted by more than one resident of one dwelling and a review of other jurisdictions reveals that, unlike Victoria, the majority permit more than one business,” Anglin said.

He added that the one-business-per-household regulation is discouraging people from taking out licences.

“We view this as unnecessary red tape that discourages citizens from appropriately registering their businesses and significantly hindering their ability to do business in our city,” she said.

Although three businesses will be permitted to operate out of one address, only one will be allowed that has customers who might show up at the dwelling, so as to reduce potential parking problems.

Coun. Marianne Alto called the changes “a fabulous place to start,” given that home occupation licences are one of the single most requested type of business licence.

“I think this is a reflection of the change and the reality of business provisions, not all of which need to be in a commercial setting,” Alto said.

Several councillors wondered about next steps to allow businesses such as artist studios to legally operate as businesses in accessory buildings such as in carriage houses or garages —something currently prohibited as home occupations.

Director of sustainable planning Jonathan Tinney said a more nuanced approach to such changes is probably best addressed through a more thorough update to the zoning bylaw — something that’s planned on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis.

“We can all think of those situations that are easy. The idea of painting in your backyard studio seems like a pretty easy one. [But] if you’re doing bronze sculpture and there’s a foundry in your backyard studio, is that necessarily a use we want to be promoting in residential areas?” Tinney said.

Coun. Geoff Young said the city’s taxation policy is “the driving force” behind the growth of home-based businesses as the city taxes commercial properties at about three times the residential rate.

“So as long as we increase that difference, of course a massage therapist wants to be in a carriage house instead of in a commercially zoned building. We’ve provided an economic incentive for that to happen,” Young said.

Councillors rejected, however, a suggestion from Coun. Ben Isitt to forward to the B.C. Assessment Authority a list of residential addresses being used for home-based businesses.

The bylaw will also be amended to add cannabis-related businesses — including mail order or internet-based businesses — as a prohibited use because these businesses might generate nuisance and security concerns, especially if cannabis is stored on site.

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