Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Welcome to The Ivany Report. If you would like to study the very issues regarding attitudes that Ray Ivany brought to the forefront in his One Nova Scotia report, come watch the drama of Home Based Business in Nova Scotia unfold. Come witness the show. What does it look like when one woman challenges an interpretation of a rule and refuses to back down. Grab some popcorn, have a seat. Be thankful that you are only a spectator.
This letter to the editor appears in today's edition of Lighthouse Now. (grab your copy, support local news. There is no passion in my voice right now.) I'd like to address Mr. Myra regarding the accusations directed at myself
1- There is no "shadow council." On Friday, a different member of the live/work task force e-mailed her resignation letter to council, administration, members of the LWTF and myself. In it she cited me as the root cause of division in the town of Lunenburg as well as the reason for the ultimate failure of the LWTF to solve anything. She said that she attended a meeting of a group of people that were not accepted to be on the LWTF (the shadow council) and that after sharing her concerns regarding the division I was creating in town, was never invited back. This is only partly true. She did share her concerns. The group unanimously (herself included) agreed to allow the LWTF to try to effect change and if at the end of a few months no progress was seen that we would regroup and see what steps could be taken to move this issue forward. We never met again. We never talked in secret. In this woman's resignation letter, she publicly stated that she was not asked back to this group. She was not asked back because there were no further meetings.
I responded to her resignation letter and said as much, but I guess no one cared. She proceeded to post her letter on Facebook without correcting this fact and you proceeded to write this letter without fact checking. At this meeting, we also agreed (herself included) that as many people as possible should attend the LWTF meetings. They are open to the public. We agreed that it was important to support this group, their efforts and to show council that this issue is important to many people. I attended these meetings for that reason and other reasons as well. In the past many changes were made to our Land Use Bylaw. The size of required parking for Home based businesses was increased, the allowable square footage for an accessory building was decreased and the use of a carriage house as a guest house was disallowed. All these changes happened legally and in the open, but nobody was paying attention. I felt and still feel that it was important to monitor decisions made in the town and to report on them to other people. This is not a crime against humanity.
Yes, attending those meetings was very frustrating. I have gained a lot of knowledge in the past two years regarding this issue and council ensured that my voice could not be heard. I ensured that my voice could be heard on my blog. If you read my posts, you will see that I was quite supportive of much of what was said by citizen members of this task force and I was even supportive of your efforts. I'm sorry that somehow my presence was misconstrued as a desire to sabotage. Nothing could be further from the truth. You know that old saying about never ass-u-me anything?
O.K., next up...I'd like to address this word, slandering. What are you referring to? Where? Honest to God, I don't know what you are talking about. Please show me. I have said consistently that there is an error. I have said consistently that Halifax and the rest of Canada understands why there is no change of use when regulating Home Occupations where permitted by Land Use in exclusively residential zones. I have stated consistently that to ignore this understanding is WRONG. I have written extensively about why we do need to support Home Businesses. I have NEVER attacked a councillor or the the Mayor on a personal level. I have simply continued to state that ignoring the facts is wrong. No personal attack, no name calling, no Hate. I don't do that. I believe that no matter who you are or what you believe, you are a human being and I am not interested in diminishing anyone's humanity. So, if challenging council is "slander" then I have slandered, but otherwise I have not.
Now, as for "armchair quarter back." I have made presentations to two provincial departments. I presented before the town Planning Advisory Committee, I have written letters to many politicians and bureaucrats. I have retained experts out of my own pocket. If this is what an "armchair quarterback" looks like, then I guess that's me. Democracy also includes citizens. And it is the role of government to ensure that citizen engagement exists! If people just passively sit by and allow their government to make all the rules without ever being questioned, that's not democracy. My job as a citizen is as important as a councillor's job. Except that I don't get paid $13,000/yr to do it. It costs me time and money and my sanity.
Here's the real tragedy. This issue has little to do with me. I'm just one little crafts person in this town. This issue has everything to do with creating a healthy business community in Lunenburg and in Nova Scotia. This issue has to do with economic development. This issue has to do with ensuring that people can move to this town and this province and can support themselves and not face burdensome regulations. But this has consistently been painted as an issue about me and I fear that negative decisions that will impact the future of our town, will be made simply because of a personal vendetta toward myself. This is not about me. This is about the town that both you and I love. This issue never should have become this contentious. It has become contentious because I was stonewalled as many before me have been stonewalled. It has become contentious because the facts are simply discarded. Did you read this blog post, Mr. Myra?
Only in Lunenburg can the opinion of the man who served as the former vice president of The Canadian Institute of Planning, who was twice awarded the recognition of Fellow from the College of Fellows for C.I.P, who wrote a a planning reference used in 1000 municipalities, 6 countries, Harvard, MIT, Berkley, NYU, The city of Toronto, The City of Vancouver, the NY state Dept among many more places, be totally ignored. The Town of Lunenburg can simply say, I'm afraid we see things differently and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. It's outrageous.
Lastly, where is the bloody province? Where is the leadership? How is it possible that our provincial leaders can watch this happen and not step in with clarification? How is it possible that representatives from the provincial government refuse to have a conversation with building and planning officials in Halifax to understand the success of that municipality in supporting their Home Based Business owners? Where is the ethics behind that? And no, that is not slander. I'm sure you are all nice people and I'm not touching your family life.
Hope you all enjoyed the show.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Hey, listen. I really like my name. It belongs to me and all my successes, failures, passions, hopes, dreams and fears.
If, in a public forum, you wish to use my name and attribute it to community division and failure to effect change, well, you can’t have it. You are going to have to claim your own sense of failure and division. I understand it’s hard to go there and, really, I don’t care whether you are able to or not, but I do care that my name not be used to publicly express your own personal frustrations. Thanks so much. Best of luck to you.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Starring: Bob Lehman:
Bob is the author of The Zoning Trilogy a planning resource used in over 1000 municipalities and 6 countries. It is used by Harvard, MIT,Berkley, The city of Toronto, The City of Vancouver, The NY Dept. of State, NYU, Parks Canada.....
Bob was a founding partner of Metropolitan Knowledge International, Meridian Planning Consultants, the Planning Partnership and the president of Lehman & Associates. Mr. Lehman has acted as project director for major research and policy studies such as the Employment Lands Study for the Growth Plan Secretariat, the Commission on New Planning for Ontario and the Urban Density Study for the Office for the Greater Toronto Area. He has been retained by a number of public and private sector organizations to assist in a wide variety of communications-led processes including Growth Management and Local Government Restructuring Studies for the Regions of Halton and Waterloo, Town of Markham, City of Guelph, County of Dufferin, City of Peterborough, and the City of Barrie. He has acted as a mediator for the office of the Provincial Facilitator and carried our work for the provincial and federal governments. Twice awarded with the Canadian Institute of Planners Honour Award for Planning Excellence, he has also been recognized with numerous awards from the Ontario Professional Planning Institute. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners and served as the Chair of the College of Fellows (2009-2014) and Vice-President (2013-2014) of CIP.
Mr. Lehman has appeared before the OMB on about 400 occasions in over 100 municipalities on issues ranging from annexation in Barrie, the SkyDome assessment appeal, monster homes in Forest Hill, ravines in Rosedale and store wars in many places. An urban planner, author and mediator Bob has established a reputation as one who understands the broader context of the forces shaping our cities, and applies his experience in both land use and transportation planning to provide his clients with a strategic advantage. His full CV can be seen HERE
Supporting roles: Halifax Regional Municipality
HRM completely understands that there is not a damn thing wrong with our Building Code, it's just being applied incorrectly in parts of rural Nova Scotia. They have offered to help the province and The town of Lunenburg, but their offer has been ignored.
The Department of Muncipal Affairs
The Department of Municipal Affairs is responsible for both planning laws and the building code. They are currently trying to fix the misapplication of the building code in rural NS by rewriting the building code. Teaching those that use the building code to use it properly would be quicker and cheaper, but NS has money to spare.
The Town of Lunenburg
The 4 square km.Town of Lunenburg, with a population of 2300 has insisted that home based businesses in exclusively residential neighbourhoods need to have a change of use to commercial occupancy, thus triggering the application of the building code as it relates to commercial occupancies. (I really can't say more about this without risk to my health)
The Hat Maker
The Hat Maker has no energy portfolios to her name and is fairly insignificant to the Province, despite Nova Scotia desperately needing entrepreneurs. Her tireless operatic screaming from rooftops, "It's just a mistake, please just fix the mistake." have been summarily ignored.
And now for Act ? A Letter From Mr. Lehman
Ms Anna Shoub
Sent by email only
Re: Home Based Businesses
I am writing in response to your request for a planning opinion related generally to the rationale for home-based businesses (“HBB”) and specifically to the use of your property as millinery. As requested I have attached a copy of my CV to this letter.
This letter also provides the planning rationale for HBB and typical elements of zoning controls. First the response to your specific questions.
Response to Specific Questions
Question One - There has been a question in Nova Scotia whether HBB which are permitted by land use regulations in exclusively residential zones are separate commercial occupancies or whether these small businesses do not change the occupancy classification of the house from residential. Can you clarify this question?
Question Two - If there is no work done on the portion of a house being used for a HB would there be any reason to trigger a building permit or occupancy permit?
experience the use of part of a dwelling for a HBB that meets zoning requirements does not require a building permit. To do so would be contrary to the planning rationale for allowing HBB to locate in residential zones, as explained further in my letter.
In my experience the use of a property for an activity permitted by the zoning by-law does not trigger the need for a building or occupancy permit. Zoning typically creates use permissions that are unconditional, or if not states what the conditions or requirements are in the by-law.
Question Three - when regulating HBB is there any difference whether or not the home occupation receives visitors/customers or if goods are sold on the premises?
Answer – Today most jurisdictions in Canada permit HBB without regulating whether customers come to the premises. This was not always the case, and older zoning regulations in some communities may still limit visits by customers. The experience of the last 30-40 years has shown that there is little negative experience in allowing customers.
Goods sold on the premises are typically limited to those produced on the premises. In both cases the planning rationale is that the small size of the operation inherently limits the number of customers and the extent of goods sold. History has shown that these limits work to preclude nuisance.
Question Four - There has been some concern about home businesses possibly competing with businesses in commercial zones. Has this been considered in the formation of land use regulations?
Answer - HBB are usually limited to a size that is relatively unavailable in the commercial or industrial real estate market. The size limitation recognizes the role of small businesses and encourages, or effectively requires, small businesses to move out of the home if they grow beyond the permitted size.
Question Five - In your opinion, is it important to support HBB? If so, why?
Answer – Both planning theory and practice has always supported HBB through policy and zoning permissions. In recent years, as concerns about incompatibility have diminished, and the technology of communications has changed so drastically, most municipalities in Canada have moved to allow greater permissions for HBB. It is not uncommon to find a broad range of types of home-based businesses that are encouraged – in particular agri-businesses, food production and tourist businesses in rural and small town contexts. Some forms of HBB are essential to a growing local economy. Businesses that are successfully established in the home may grow to become something more substantial in the future.
Question Six - What role do you think HBB play in economic revitalization?
Answer - Everywhere I have worked I have found that a community’s greatest assets are the people who live there, care about and nurture their shared interest in that place. Someone’s home can be an effective and practical incubator for almost any type of business. It has been my experience that many home-based businesses move to more standard commercial or industrial locations over time. Even those that remain in their home are part of the larger community economy that generated wealth and creates jobs through their purchases of services and goods.
Prior to the industrial revolution the home and workplace were the same place. Families lived together as self-sustaining economic units. They produced most of what they needed or traded for in the marketplace. There was no zoning and no building code.
with exclusively industrial uses were established close to railways, ports and sources of power.
Municipal planning eventually codified this separation using zoning. Zoning separated industrial uses from housing areas, to the benefit of both. The geographic separation was enabled by changes in the technology of movement which allowed much greater choice in locations of work and home – streetcars, bicycles, trains and eventually the automobile.
Most zoning by-laws today continue to have use permissions that reflect the potential impacts of uses that produce adverse impacts as a result of off-site emissions. However, while zoning originally instituted limits on locations of businesses to ensure compatibility, today there are fewer reasons for exclusive use districts. As the technology of production has changed, the nature of economic activity in most Canadian communities has shifted from manufacturing to service uses.
Employment trends indicate that home-based businesses have emerged as an increasingly significant sector within local economies over the last 40 years. This change is a result of several demographic and economic trends including:
· increased numbers of women in the workforce;
· a decline in the manufacturing and resource based sectors;
· corporate downsizing and outsourcing;
· a more educated and mobile workforce;
· technological innovations; and,
· an increased value on balancing home and work responsibilities.
Home-based businesses are recognized by planning policies as a valid response to changing employment needs which can reinforce the economic stability of local economies.
enough to offer employment opportunities to local residents. Home-based businesses are a productive element of the local economy that provides both a market and a demand for other local services.
From a planning and land use perspective, home-based businesses make more efficient use of municipal infrastructure. By working out of the home, there is a demand for utility services during off-peak hours. As a result, there is a more efficient use of infrastructure that must otherwise still be supplied.
At the same time, home-based businesses provide flexibility for the individual, by permitting travel at alternate hours and reducing traffic demands when these demands are busiest. Having more people home during the day means that there are more “eyes on the street” to monitor the neighbourhood and the activities that occur within the community on a daily basis.
If estimates are based on the findings of provincial trade boards are correct, approximately one-third of all registered businesses in Canada are home-based. The most recent Statistics Canada report on this issue indicates that approximately 18% of the workforce works from their home. This is made up of both employees who can work from home and those who are self employed. In total in Canada in 2008 3.2M people worked from their home.
Planning Regulation of Home Based Businesses
It is important to note that the fundamental basis for the separation of industry and housing remains today as the potential incompatibility between the two activities. The primary goal in regulating HBB is to establish planning provisions that are flexible enough to accommodate entrepreneurial needs and encourage economic development, while at the same time providing a set of performance standards that restrict undesirable activities and protect the public interest.
Given the importance in most communities of protecting the character of residential neighbourhoods, it is necessary to balance the need for planning policies that encourage home-based businesses with a set of regulations that will provide assurances that the quality of life enjoyed in a residential neighbourhood will continue.
In general terms there are three objectives related to the public interest that justify the regulation of HBB. These are:
· to maintain and enhance neighbourhood character;
· to minimize nuisance; and,
· to maintain equity among business users.
Each of these is discussed in turn.
Change in Neighbourhood Character – In most communities there is a neighborhood character that is primarily residential in nature. Permissions for home-based businesses should not compromise the integrity of the residential community in which the business is located. Many municipalities have relied on regulations dealing with issues such as signage, parking and outdoor storage to minimize any adverse aesthetic impact that may change the appearance or existing character of a neighbourhood.
At the same time our neighbourhoods always evolve and there are many communities in Canada where the proliferation of HBB has created a healthy, interesting and attractive area. Variety in neighbourhood character reflects the variety of values and circumstances that attract people to a community. The planning principle should be to provide for diversity rather than conformity.
Neighbourhood Nuisance - The issues that most commonly result in complaints include the use of commercial vehicles early in the morning, the appearance of commercial vehicles parked in driveways, coming and going of cars and trucks during the day, and the affect of the use of power machinery at any time.machinery at any time.
Most home-based business by-laws address the potential for nuisance indirectly by limiting the amount and location of floor space dedicated to the business, parking and the hiring of employees not resident to the host dwelling of the business. Regulations such as these, while not guaranteeing compatibility with residential uses, do have the effect of limiting the size and scope of a home-based business that has proven to minimize the potential for nuisance in the overwhelming majority of cases.
Equity - There are now, and will continue to be, businesses conducting similar activities in residential areas that are carried out in commercial and industrial areas. In these situations, the business in the commercial industrial area is usually paying property taxes at a higher rate. In order to ensure a degree of equity for such uses within the municipality, regulations are used to limit the size of a home occupation and ultimately ensure that once the business grows beyond a certain point, it is required to move into a commercial or industrial location, which then places it in an equitable situation with its competitors.
The objective is to foster business opportunities that begin in the home while at the same time ensuring that the business moves to a commercial location within the municipality once it has outgrown its HBB status.
LEHMAN & ASSOCIATES
Robert Lehman, F.C.I.P., R.P.P
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Before I proceed with my latest tangent. I would like to say that there is not a damn thing I am going to do about changing this rule. It's legal, it sucks, I don't like it, but it is what it is. My plate is full. I'm busy trying to fix an error in the misapplication of the building code to Home Based Businesses right now and that's enough for me. But this is related and I'm going to talk about it.
My home based business was recently assessed with Commercial Property taxes. I really had a hard time understanding how a a commercial property tax could be applied to a residential property, but apparently it can be. Since this rule is not applied to Bed and Breakfasts, with the only explanation in the NS assessment act that Bed and Breakfasts with 4 rooms or less that include breakfast are residential properties, I figured that PVSC (the crown corporation that assesses properties in NS) must not be understanding that homes in exclusively residential zones are also residential properties and the small businesses within these homes do not change this fact. But, I was wrong. According to PVSC, one thing has nothing to do with the other and PVSC can apply their own definitions to businesses in homes, regardless of zoning. That's the way it is.
So, here's what I learned from my conversation with a commercial tax assessor at PVSC- As far as they are concerned, any home business other than a Bed and Breakfast is a commercial business and if they can find out about it, then they will apply a commercial property tax assessment to that portion of your home. So, if you are self employed and you use a room in your house for writing or graphic design or for a consulting business or for teaching piano or producing crafts for your local farmers market, this applies to you.
I asked her how they find out about these businesses and she explained it could be from a development permit, a sign, a web site, an advertisement a complaint or a brochure. They have the right to enter your home to investigate. She explained that it is part of their job description to actively find home based businesses by looking through various forms of media. So, they can do this and they do do this. This happens all across the province.
Here's a little side story for you. A couple of months ago I got a visit from a very likeable woman from Statistics Canada. I was one of the handful of homes in Lunenburg picked for the Survey of Household Spending. She sat with me in my studio a couple of times and asked me some questions. How much do you make per year? Under $25,000. How much money does your husband make? About the same. How much money do you have saved for retirement? Nothing. Do you have any life insurance? No. Do you have any dental insurance or additional health insurance? No.
Lots more questions. She looked at me and said, "You are pretty much like most people in Lunenburg County." That really surprised me. Somehow, I thought we were more impressive losers than everyone else. Nope, seems we are not the only ones that are never sure that we will have the money to cover the mortgage or how to pay for the heating bill or internet. Every month is a lesson in faith. I often stare at a pile of bills and choose the lucky winner according to which utility won't be turned off.
Now, don't get me wrong, every profession comes with its challenges. I would not trade my life for anything. If I was offered $100,000/yr to sit in a cubicle, I would not accept it. Do, I consider myself poor? No way. I'm rich. I live in a beautiful house in a beautiful town, I have a wonderful husband, a healthy, incredible child and one damn cute dog. I get to make women going through cancer treatment feel beautiful, I get to make the world a little more colourful. I go for walks every day and we eat well.
O.K. Anna, what's your point? I think we have to think about whether or not we care if there are crafts people, artists, and musicians in our towns. If we insist that there is one level of commercial tax for all businesses, regardless of size, ability to pay or even what they are doing then this policy is not supportive. Right now, we are valuing only the ability to pay.
Is my value to Nova Scotia related to how much I can earn? I don't think so. If you head over to the Happy Blog you will see that I bring people into The Town of Lunenburg. Creative industries attract people to this province. But our value is not just in tourism dollars; it's also in what we bring to a community. Think about what you love about Nova Scotia? If the answer is Bayers Lake or Costco then you are dismissed, but if the answer is colourful, vibrant small towns filled with fishermen, folk artists, crafts people, farmers, furniture makers.....Well, then as a society we need to recognize that these professions are valuable and these professions make little money.
It comes down to allowing me to exist. (If you don't want me to exist, please visualize an artist you like) It comes down to allowing people to develop new businesses and recognizing that homes are incubators for new business ideas and people often run businesses from home to keep start up costs down. It comes down to recognizing that there are many struggling people in our province and if they are trying to lift themselves up by running a one chair hairdressing salon in their home, then we should help them. It's the right thing to do. What happens if my property taxes go up by $800? Maybe nothing. Maybe I can swing it, I never know. But I'm on the edge. It's onerous for me. $800 might be nothing if you make $80,000/yr, but if you make $25,000/yr it's just one more bill that's hard to pay.
What's the consequence of businesses like mine facing expenses they can't pay for? It's called the underground economy, and in the long run we all pay for this. If a small home based business has to pay more property tax than they can afford then they might try to claim less sales to keep their taxes down. That affects our health care and our roads. Do you think you can fix this problem by just enforcing the rule? Well, you can't draw water from a rock. If the money isn't there, you aren't going to get it. You'll just prevent the business from existing. Super. Now we have created poverty... and who pays for that? You do. Your tax dollars pay for welfare and the medical costs associated with poor nutrition and the many other societal costs connected to poverty. Is this making sense yet?
I know, I know...Municipalities need property taxes to operate. I sympathize. I want the town to do well. I want the town to have enough money to properly fix our waste water treatment plant, so that people on Dufferin street can open their windows in the summer. I think there's a better way. Look at Lunenburg as a case study. There are hundreds of self employed people in town, but only a handful of home businesses that are not hidden. What if instead of penalizing a few with excessive property taxes, every home business was asked to pay $100/yr. as a business occupancy tax and as long as their business was less than 25% of the home their property tax did not change. It would be reasonable and affordable and if there was something in it for the business like a listing on the town web site then you might find businesses willingly complying and it certainly would make enforcement a lot easier. Don't we want to help people and create a strong local economy? It's a win win. More revenue for the town and more potential revenue for the businesses.
But, like I said, there is not a damn thing I'm going to do about this right now. I'm busy at the moment and I don't have time to fight every bad decision that comes my way. At the moment I'd rather pay the extra $800, hope I make it and have a little more time to hang out with my son. Nova Scotia's provincial and municipal governments can decide for themselves what they do or don't value and act accordingly.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
There is a very good chance that your rural municipality does not understand the concept of Land Use. Your provincial government is also in the dark, so don't look for help there. Halifax does understand these laws and there are a few other municipalities that seem to understand them, but many do not and are incorrectly applying the Building code to Home Occupations in exclusively residential zones.
But, even if you are in HRM, your home based business, in an exclusively residential zone, will be subjected to commercial property taxes if you apply for a permit. That's a lot of money. My property taxes have gone up by $800 and guess what? This is perfectly legal in Nova Scotia. Yes, you read that correctly. It is not an error. It is written in the tax legislation. Commercial property taxes can be applied outside of commercial zones.
This is generally not done in other provinces, but it's done here. Here's the kicker- Commercial property taxes are applied without rhyme or reason. If you operate a Bed and Breakfast in a residential zone, you will not be charged commercial property taxes. If you don't hang a sign or apply for a development permit you will not be charged commercial taxes. If you are an artist or woodworker or hairdresser or accountant operating a small business from your home and you would like customers to find you, or if you would just like to operate legally, you will be charged commercial taxes.
Talk to your municipality or PVSC (the crown corporation responsible for assessing property taxes in NS) and nobody knows what they are talking about. Nobody wants to take responsibility. Your municipality will tell you that they just do what PVSC tells them to do and PVSC generally talks out of the wrong orifice. It is the blind leading the blind.
It's all rather unfortunate because home based business is an incubator for larger business (Think Steve Jobs) and when businesses purposefully fly under the radar because of fear of burdensome regulations or burdensome taxation, their growth is prevented. But who cares about the little guy anyways? They are so easy to pick on. Most of them are too busy raising families or figuring out how to pay grocery bills to fight an unjust system. Good job, Nova Scotia. You are going for the low hanging fruit and thinking small.