Home business ordinance moves to public hearing

The Hillsboro Planning and Development Commission approved wording for a new zoning ordinance addressing home-based businesses at their meeting last Thursday.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance has been set for Oct. 26.

Eric Strauss, planning consultant, described the city’s approach to home occupations as “liberal” compared with many other cities. He said the ordinance is clearly intended to stop nuisances but otherwise “let people do whatever they want.”

The commission will define a home occupation as being “any profession, other occupation or activity carried out for revenue by a resident of a dwelling conducted as an accessory use which is clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the premises as a dwelling.”

In addition to the limitations that already apply to the respective residential district, a home business, according to the new ordinance, would need to meet the following standards:

— The business must be conducted within the confines of the main dwelling and garages or carports.

— Materials, equipment samples and goods cannot be stored outside those structures.

— Business hours must be within 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

— Except for appropriate signage, no alterations can be made to a house or accessory structure that would alter the property’s residential appearance.

— On-site employment must be limited to not more than one person who does not live on the premises.

— Traffic generated by the business must not exceed what would be considered normal for a residential neighborhood, and any need for additional parking must be met off the street and not in a required front yard.

— A home business should not cause the elimination of required off-street parking.

— A home business must not create excessive illumination, noise, odor, dust, heat, smoke, vibration, electrical interference, radio or television transmission interference, air pollution, water pollution or conflict with the use of adjacent property.

— Toxic substances cannot be produced, dumped or stored on the premises.

The ordinance would generally prohibit several types of businesses, but they could be approved with special permission from the HPDC.

Those business would include those involved in retail or wholesale sales; regular sales to the public on the premises; equipment rental; sale of any parts; lawnmower, appliance equipment and machinery repair; automobile and other motor vehicle repair service or sales; and the storage or use of highly flammable, toxic or other hazardous materials.

“This is a pretty liberal approach to home occupations in that it restricts nothing absolutely,” Strauss said.

As members discussed the standards listed in Strauss’s revised proposal, they reaffirmed that approach several times during the meeting.

“I guess I’m against having regulations for every little thing that comes along,” said member Judy Klein, expressing a common sentiment.

Two standards suggested in the proposal-to restrict the number of children or adults in home-based day-care operations-were eliminated from the list in favor of the more liberal guidelines set by the state.

The new ordinance, once passed, would grandfather in existing home businesses, but existing business that would otherwise be in conflict with the ordinance could not expand, Strauss said.

Enforcement of the ordinance would be the responsibility of the city superintendent, he said. Strauss admitted that, given the ordinance’s liberal approach, in most cases enforcement would be more reactive than proactive.

“Neighbors will have to complain, or Johnnie (Liles, city superintendent) will drive by and see the problems,” Strauss said.

In other business, the commission declined to get involved in setting aesthetic standards for accessory buildings on residential property.

The issue surfaced because Kermit Dirksen, the city’s building inspector, had received a request for a building permit from a resident to construct a canopy-like metal structure manufactured by Clark Metal Buildings, Inc., of Crescent, Okla.

The buildings are of a bent steel tubing frame design with ribbed horizontal sheet metal.

Dirksen turned down the request because the building design did not have the stamp of a State of Kansas architect.

The stamp would indicate the design of the structure meets state safety standards in regard to snow and wind.

The commission affirmed Dirksen’s position, particularly after Mayor Delores Dalke reported that some cities in Kansas have been sued when buildings with unapproved designs have collapsed.

Dirksen said his primary concern with the request was structural safety, by he added that he was reluctant to issue a permit also “based on the history of communities’ resistance to mobile home appearances.”

The commission soon decided it was not prepared to get into the business of establishing aesthetic standards for accessory buildings.

“If we start doing it, we’ll have to do it universally,” said member Craig Roble.

In their final item of business, the commission agreed to redraw the boundaries of the area of city zoned as the “central business district” to reflect current uses.

To illustrate the problem, members were told that their meeting room in city hall was still zoned “medium residential” even though “general commercial” would be more appropriate.

The new boundaries, which will be finalized with legal description, would include a few residential structures.

But homeowners would be unaffected by the zoning change, Strauss said.

They city will issue each homeowner a conditional-use permit that would apply to the property as long as it remained residential. Rezoning would have no tax implications.

The commission approved motions to rezone the affected areas from medium residential to general commercial, then to add them to the central business district overlay.

These changes will be on the agenda for a separate public hearing Oct. 26.

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