Friday, January 25, 2013

Draft Dunwoody Zoning Update & proposed Home Occupation Regulations




Unknown said...

Please do not take this as a griping or request for changes. I merely want to understand the impact of the "Home Occupation" proposals and I understand these are not the actual ordinances. There are many things I expect will be clarified in the legalese, but there are some significant items.

First, what defines an employee? The IRS? If so, what is a 1099 sub? It isn't an employee, not a client, nor a customer. There doesn't seem to be a mention of contractors or vendors servicing the home-based business. And is "an employee" a "Full Time Equivalent"? In other words, can I have two part-timers and still fit the "one non-resident employee" restriction?

As a fan of music and youth music in particular it seems the home based music teaching portions remain weak though "by right" is commendable. I assume musical instruments will be legally defined in such a fashion that "instruments of opportunity" as used in "stomp" would qualify. But given what is shown here I believe a reasonable argument could be made that a musical instrument falls into the "tools or equipment" category. (No, I won't get as silly as suggesting the obvious: playing a saw but there are several thousand moving parts in a piano--it is a quite marvelous machine.) Will this ordinance mean I will no longer be treated to those marvelously resounding Beethoven chords if another neighbor finds them annoying? What about the classical strings teacher next door? She caters to home-schoolers with one parent often bringing 3-4 students. Or, can she not train and practice a string quartet? Are we really trying to solve the problem of too many cars/traffic? If so, should not that be what is regulated rather than saying that a trio is OK even if that means three cars but a quartet is verboten even if it is this generation's "Osmonds"?

Again, I'm not trying to be difficult, and one might argue (successfully) had I really been concerned I'd have participated, but I do wonder if we're over-regulating the wrong things where something simpler (e.g., noise ordinance) might work.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

These questions have come up numerous times and sounding board and again this past Wednesday.

"Employee" was not defined specifically beyond "someone who is employed by the business." Technically, it could be a contractor or anyone else on payroll for any amount of time.

I agree with you re: number of people present vs number of actual vehicles on the road. When we started this process, we tried to define "impacts" rather than nebulous "concerns". Cars are the clear impact. Then someone joked about a clown car with 25 people in it, how can it be abused, etc. We still have to deal with those who have a conniption at the very *concept* of "home businesses". Those people are hung up on the number of people, rather than the number of cars on the street and as contradictory as their arguments are, we considered those too.

We decided on these ordinances as written without delving as far as you have into subtleties to accomplish certain goals. 1) To acknowledge activity already present, which does not generate complaints, without allowing it to expand to the point where it would cause conflict and 2) to encourage compliance with permitting. As it stands now, no one will ever apply for a SLUP again because of the abuse that Heather suffered in her application, both by the city and by the DNCA. So the focus was placed on permitting types and procedures so that home biz owners would be willing to come forward and be permitted and counted. Then a more accurate assessment could be made regarding all impacts of home businesses - not just the negative ones but the positive ones (economic development, unemployment stats) as well.

IMHO,(as always ONLY MHO) it's not possible to deal with the subtle variations you describe in this first rewrite. But it is possible to clarify that homeowners who work and tutor from home can do so without causing a problem (the lack of stats in Community Development is proof) and without being subjected to punitive regulations that far outweigh any "negative impact". Your questions will probably come up later on, (ie, 10 years or so) assuming this code gets passed in some form close to this.

I would also suggest that merely maintaining the current status quo actually weakens city government because the current regulations are successfully ignored. This "hot button issue" isn't hot because of a constant widespread impact, but because of the great fear being encouraged about it.

Zoning Sounding Board Confidential