This is the story of two good people and a horrible case of obstructionism at Lunenburg Town Hall.
Jenn and Chris are a young couple that live in Halifax. Jenn runs her own dog grooming shop. They fell in love with Lunenburg and decided it was the perfect place to start a family. Their plan was to downsize Jenn's business and work from home.
They contacted Town Hall in February of 2016 to find out if it would be possible to operate a dog grooming shop from their home. The town confirmed that they could. They were told dog grooming is considered a personal service and personal services are permitted. With this assurance they put their house up for sale and gave notice to their commercial Landlord.
After months of house hunting they phoned the town again and were told that dog grooming is not a personal service because the service is to the dog and not the human. Jenn was flabbergasted. She explained that the dog does not bring itself. The dog belongs to the human. The dog does not wish to be groomed. The service is to the person. We put our house on the market! Why weren't we ever informed that the town changed their mind?
The response - Sorry. You can apply to amend the bylaw. The fee is $1000.
Last Tuesday, Jenn plead her case to Lunenburg Council. She asked that they please reconsider the definition. She said that if it was absolutely necessary to go through a four month bylaw amendment that she would, but that it's truly ludicrous to have to do this and she would be unable to earn a living for four months.
At Tuesday's council meeting, the town said they did not recall ever telling Jenn that her business was permitted.
This is an e-mail from the town to Jenn's husband, Chris, dated February 8, 2016.
I was speaking with Jen last week regarding our general requirements for business uses permitted in residential zones. A dog grooming business is permitted as a business use in a residence (home based business) or in an accessory building. I have attached the requirements as set out in Part 3.1 of the Land Use By-law. The home would have to be your primary residence. You would not be permitted to have kennels outside or have the dogs stay overnight. Jen had related that she would prefer to convert a detached garage for her business. It looks like the garage is roughly 120 ftÂ², which is well below the maximum allowable area. We have one application form that covers the development, heritage and building permit. There are no fees for development permits and heritage permits.
The property is located within the Heritage Conservation District. Changes to the exterior (cladding, windows, doors, additions, signage etc) of the home or garage will require a heritage permit. For quick reference, see page 19 of the pdf of the Construction & Renovation Project Information Guide
Jen and I had discussed bringing an accessory building such as a detached garage up to building code standards, especially the requirement for having a washroom available. I had checked with Keith Fraser, our Building Inspector, regarding an exemptions for small sized buildings. There are no exemptions. It turns out that mobile small vendors do not have the same washroom requirements as small home based business because the mobile ones (e.g. carts) are regulated under the Motor Vehicle Act. Jen has likely spoken to Keith as he was going to call her regarding her question on exemptions.
In short, the dog grooming business is a permitted use in a converted garage in the OTR Zone. You would need permits - a development permit for the use, very likely a heritage permit for exterior changes and/or signage, and a building permit for changes to bring it up to meet code.
I hope that this helps. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
This experience is not just red tape. This is pure obstructionism. Two people have been put through a crazy amount of stress and when they tell their story the town denies it happened.
I thing an investigation is in order.