Saturday, January 14, 2017

How Lunenburg Administration Hurts Good People.

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.  

Hello Chris.

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 ftĂ‚², 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. 


  1. Eloquently written, Anna. Based on the email letter alone, your friend should be allowed to set up shop. I personally hate bureaucracy and hypocrisy. Sounds like Lunenburg has unfortunately a bit of a problem with both of those things, which is a shame, because it's such a fantastic community of working artists and professionals. Oh, and let's not forget the thousands of tourists who come to Lunenburg each year to visit those artists and professionals and spend their $$$$$ in the town. And...a lot of them bring their cute little dogs too who also need haircuts.

  2. Has the Town forgotten that thousands of tourists and locals flock to Lunenburg every year to visit the wonderful variety of working artists and professionals, spending their $$$$$ in the town? And...many of our visiting guests bring their cute, furry family members along with them who also need haircuts.

  3. Here we go with the requirement for a bathroom again. For the dogs? Really, usually people drop the dog off go shopping, go home (use their own bathroom) and come back when the dog is done. What is the reason for the bathroom?

  4. How about if this simple scenario plays out:
    Town: We welcome new residents and businesses to Lunenburg. The growing popularity of dog grooming is a useful business for our town and it meets the requirements for a home-based business. We waive the requirement for a washroom as dogs do not use white porcelain fixtures.
    Jenn & Chris: We appreciate your cooperation, thank you.
    Town: This town appreciates you enhancing the diverse profile of our community.
    OUTCOME: Business booming, taxes paid, tourists delighted about pampering Fido while on holiday, word-of-mouth recommendations spread exponentially, more people want to move to Lunenburg, employment rises, town thrives, everyone happy.

  5. So, if my small, home-based business is to, let's say, polish watches, would the watch need to be a person for this to be a personal service?

  6. The Province of Nova Scotia is a registered Corporation, simply ask them who they're working for ? if it is for the Feds, ask if they have sworn an oath, and you would like to see it. Put them on the back foot for a change.
    You could always ask to be paid in vouchers, which have no cash value, and therefore you are not receiving an income, no income, no business, no business, no permit.


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