Saturday, January 9, 2016

But What About The Empty Store Fronts

Why should we support Home Based Businesses when he have so many empty store fronts in town?  This has been a question that has been kicking around town hall for quite some time now.  I heard it myself within those walls and I heard it outside of those walls.  This question lurks under the surface of so many of the decisions that have been made by council.

We have a land use bylaw that permits home based businesses that have been deemed to not be in conflict with a residential neighbourhood.  It even permits appropriate signage and the sale of goods made on the premises.  But, bylaw amendments have been made over the past few years that have all but cancelled out the good intentions of our land use bylaw.  In 2012 The parking regulations were changed from needing smaller sized parking spaces that could be in a single driveway to needing 3 full size 10x20ft. parking spaces that must be accessed independently.  Apparently, this amendment was an oversight, but having now witnessed how many meetings it takes to amend a bylaw, I just can't see how an oversight is possible.  Another change happened in 2012.  Previously, if you wanted to build an accessory building on your property it could be 750 sq. ft.  That number was reduced to 400 sq. ft.  I believe this is the outside footprint, so now take away the walls and you have around 300 sq. ft. Put in the unnecessary public washroom and you have 250 sq. ft.  What sort of business can you run in a space that small?

Perhaps there was some logical rationale for these changes, but I can't help but think that it has something to do with the belief that we should not be supporting home based businesses.  That businesses like mine are in conflict with the commercial zone.

When a town supports, and when I say support I don't mean turns a blind eye to the many home based businesses in town that are operating in non compliance, I mean truly supports and encourages these businesses, what is it that they are supporting?  They are supporting parents of young children being able to work and be there for their family.  They are supporting grown children being able to care for elderly parents.  They are supporting individuals that may need to care for a disabled loved one.  They are supporting new immigrants, young families and artists that often do not have the means to afford the overhead of a commercial store front.  They are supporting the incubation and growth of small business.  Remember that guy, Steve Jobs, who started a business in his garage?  If government nurtures and supports these micro businesses by way of policy, it is inevitable that some of these businesses will eventually have outgrown their homes and then fill up some of those empty store fronts.  They are also supporting the disabled.  There has been so much talk about accessibility in relationship to my tiny home based business, but has anyone stopped to consider that disabled people are often prevented from taking jobs because of a lack of accessibility in the work place?  Could it be that Lunenburg's present interpretation of an existing rule would actually prevent someone with a disability from earning a living?

Here's a comment on facebook in regards to the last post about Mariko.  "This is a great article .... I certainly know that there is absolutely no way my uncle Earl Bailly could have survived in this type of atmosphere in terms of selling his paintings and reproductions ... thousands of visitors came into our little house on Pelham Street ... no steel doors, no public washroom, no parking except on the street - it was accessible though!"  Earl Bailly was a famous Lunenburg painter who was in a wheel chair.  His home was accessible because he was in a wheel chair, but if we choose (and in this case it is a choice because the actual rule does not require a home to be accessible and home based businesses are still part of the home)   to put those rules on the tiniest of our businesses, that support so many people, support immigration and growth then we are working against our own prosperity.

Lastly, Home based businesses support the commercial businesses.  Yes, you heard that right.  When someone comes to visit me or someone like Mariko they are often coming from far away.  They often ask me for a restaurant recommendation.   Usually, I just pick up the phone and make the reservation for them.   I always pull out The Lunenburg Guide and suggest they don't leave town before visiting Ironworks, check out our incredible locally roasted coffee at Laughing Whale  , and visit Nova Terra Cotta Pottery.  I also tell them about our fabulous Lunenburg Walking Tour.   It works both ways.  Many of these same businesses and others that I haven't mentioned go out of their way to tell their customers about the milliner working in her little studio.  This spirit of generosity makes Lunenburg a beautiful place to visit and live.  But, we need to dispel this outdated notion that the businesses are in competition with each other.  Many of us already understand what has been emphasized in the Ivany Report.  It is not about guarding your small piece of pie.  It is about working together to make the pie bigger.

Here are some wonderful photos of Earl Bailly working from his home based business.


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