Please join Peter Gillespie (Town of Wethersfield), Neil Pade (Town of Canton), Jen Rodriguez (Town of Windsor Locks), and me for a lively discussion of some cutting edge planning issues of the day at the Thomas Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield! Sept. 25th, reg. details in photos: pic.twitter.com/fIrcmNHSZf— Dwight Merriam (@DwightMerriam) September 13, 2019
The landmark Penn Central test for regulatory takings may be reconsidered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here is an article I have written on this recent, important development:
Originally published Summer 2013
More people are working at home doing everything from hairdressing to snowmobile repair to doggy day care . . . are you planning and regulating for this new world?
People Have Always Worked at Home, But…
Home occupations predate zoning regulations by thousands of years. Isn’t farming the quintessence of working at home? Now that we have urbanization and land-use regulations we need to consider how to accommodate these workers. The numbers are large and getting larger with telecommuting and other changes in how we work. Chances are your local regulations reflect a simpler, bygone era.
More Are Working at Home
The U.S. Census reports that almost 10 percent of workers worked at home at least one day a week, with nearly three-quarters of those working full time at home. One in 10 of workers over 65 worked exclusively at home. A quarter of those home- based workers are in management, business, and financial occupations. Perhaps you already allow lawyers, public accountants, bookkeepers, and financial advisers to work out of their homes.
Probably Many Illegal
The U.S. Census is not your local zoning enforcement officer so it is not asking the big question—are all these happy home workers permit- ted under zoning? In a single decade from 2000 to 2010, the home-based workforce in computer, engineering, and science occupations increased by nearly 70 percent. Do you call those out in your regulations? Probably not, and those workers are technically violating your local zoning laws. So what are we to do?
Find Out What You Have
Ask around. Do surveys. Get the high school civics class involved and have those eager teenagers interview people at the local grocery about their work-at-home activities and what they think your community ought to be doing with home occupations.
Avoid Creating Unnecessary Willful Violators
Define away the small stuff. Telecommuting is working at home but you don’t need to regulate it. So is nonindustrial work by the resident without employees or customers — think of the weaver with a loom who sells her goods on eBay. No employees, no customers, only an occasional FedEx or UPS truck, no hazardous materials, no noise or other adverse impacts . . . define that as an as-of-right use accessory to the residential use.
Define More by Impact Than Specific Use
Type in home-occupation zoning in any search engine, make a compendium of examples, and then spend some time with your board or commission over several meetings discussing what you think is appropriate for home occupations. Most of the regulations define home occupation in terms of work that is conducted by the people who live in the home and that is incidental and secondary to the residential character of the dwelling. Try this typical one, for example, from Brush, Colorado, population 5,292: “. . . a use conducted principally within a dwelling and carried on by the inhabitants thereof, which use is clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the dwelling for dwelling purposes and does not change the character thereof; provided that no article is sold or offered for sale except such as may be produced by members of the immediate family residing on the premises.”
At the other end of the size continuum is New York City:
A “home occupation” is an accessory use which:
is clearly incidental to or secondary to the residential use of a dwelling unit or rooming unit;
is carried on within a dwelling unit, rooming unit, or accessory building by one or more occupants of such dwelling unit or rooming unit, except that, in connection with the practice of a profession, one person not residing in such dwelling unit or rooming unit may be employed; and
occupies not more than 25 percent of the total floor area of such dwelling unit or rooming unit and in no event more than 500 square feet of floor area.
Most regulations use a mix of impact regulation and either specific uses or illustrative uses. New York City expressly prohibits certain uses as home occupations.
Use Discretionary Regulation
Variances are not the way to go. Use special permits or conditional uses— same thing, different term—and site plan review. Spell out in your regulations what types of conditions you might impose on: parking, visitors, employees, hours of operation, deliveries, appearance, and other aspects that may impact residential character. Consider a time limit of on the permit, say one year with extensions for multiple years thereafter if it is run well and the neighbors have no complaints.
Embrace New (Old) Forms of Housing
Have you heard of live/work units? They are combinations of living and working spaces that may at one time be all residential or easily converted to include working spaces. In the old days before zoning they were the typical storefront shop with the residence above or in back. APA’s Smart Codes: Model Land-Development Regulations (PAS 556) has a Model Live/Work Ordinance at Section 4.2. Try some in your community. They provide a nice street-scape and a chance for small businesses to flourish.
Transitions Are Difficult
Successful home occupations often outgrow their space. If you have good controls on the number of employees, number of visitors, number of vehicles, hours of operation, and the like, you and the home-based owner will know when you reach the point when it is time to move on.
From APA: Regulating Home-Based Businesses in the Twenty- First Century (PAS 499), Home Occupation Ordinances (PAS 391), and Jobs-Housing Balance (PAS 516), all available at APAPlanningBooks.com (Previous link inactive, usehttps://www.planning.org/books/ to access.)
From Albany Law School: “Zoning for Home Occupations” (2006), avail- able at http://www.governmentlaw.org/files/RELJ- zoning_home_occupations.pdf. (Previous link inactive, use ZONING FOR HOME OCCUPATIONS: MODERNIZING ZONING CODES TO ACCOMMODATE GROWTH IN HOME‐BASED BUSINESSES.)
The ABA has generously provided, free to the public, excerpts from the book and materials from the panel presentation, please click-thru the article to access them:
Hermine Ricketts and her husband, Tom Carroll, decided the best place ever for their vegetable garden was right there conveniently in their front yard. Local officials had other ideas.
On Tuesday, August 6th, Connecticut’s Water Planning Council (WPC) presented the Champion of Water Award to Margaret Miner, recently retired Executive Director of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut and a respected, well-known leader in the environmental advocacy community. This is the first award of its kind bestowed by the WPC with the intention of recognizing an individual who exemplifies advocating for the safety and protection of water in the State of Connecticut.
During the presentation of the award, John Betkoski, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) representative and Chair of the WPC, said there was no debate about to whom the WPC’s first annual award should go. “The Water Planning Council is thrilled to recognize Margaret Miner for her leadership, passion, and commitment to protecting the waters of Connecticut,” said Betkoski on behalf of the Water Planning Council.
The Water Planning Council (WPC) is made up of a representative from PURA, the Office of Policy and Management, Department of Health, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. It was established by the legislature to “address issues involving the water companies, water resources, and state policies regarding the future of the state's drinking water supply.” The WPC is responsible for spearheading the effort to develop Connecticut’s first State Water Plan which was approved by the legislature in June. Ms. Miner was instrumental in the development of the plan serving on the Steering Committee as well as both the Policy and Science and Technical Subcommittees.
Rivers Alliance was founded in 1992 by the state’s leading river-watershed groups. Its mission is to protect all the state’s waters by working to enact good environmental laws and policies, and to help any person or group dealing with a water-related problem. During her eighteen years as executive of Rivers Alliance, Margaret worked successfully to pass state laws to create a statewide water plan, to protect streamflow in all water courses; to ban the water contaminant MTBE in gasoline; and to restore and protect state funding for the US Geological Survey streamflow gages. She has accumulated numerous awards including the prestigious New England EPA Lifetime Merit Award. She continues her important work with Rivers Alliance as a valued consultant, as a member of the Connecticut Water Planning Council’s Advisory Group, and on the board of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. Prior to coming to Rivers Alliance, she was Executive Director of the Roxbury Land Trust, and before that worked as a news reporter and as a book editor and writer. “She has been a driving force for better water policy for decades. I consider myself very fortunate to have had and continue to have Margaret as a mentor,” said Alicea Charamut, the current Executive Director of Rivers Alliance.
Dwight Merriam, President of the Board of Rivers Alliance, articulated the sentiments of dozens of Margaret’s colleagues, past and present, who attended Tuesday’s meeting to witness the presentation of the award, "The Water Planning Council's recognition of Margaret goes far in expressing what we can never fully put into words....her passionate commitment and tireless efforts to protect our rivers and all our water resources has benefited each and every one of us, and will for generations to come."