Home-Based Businesses in Old Town

On Tuesday , January 25th, the City Council will review proposed changes to the UDC that currently control how people work out of their homes. There are two main schools of thought – regulate or don’t regulate.

There are also two different geographic views: regard the Old Town Overlay District as a distinct area to be treated separately, OR treat it just like the rest of the town.

After several months’ worth of task-force discussion these two sides remain opposed. Council must decide, and if you care you should attend. Speak if possible, and email all Council members.

Note that if you address Council either in person or by email on this matter – if you favor the Old Town Overlay District being treated separately and being granted regulations to protect neighborhoods, refer to the option you’re supporting as “Section 5.03.020.F – Option 4.”

Home Based Businesses

The current ordinance relating to home-based occupations forbids “on-site retail sales or services.” This essentially prohibits visits from clients and customers.

The proposed amendment will liberalize the existing UDC and allow customer visits to home-based businesses.

Lines are largely drawn between two main camps – those who wish to allow customer visits with very little or no regulation, and those who are willing to allow customer visits with appropriate safeguards and regulations crafted into the law.

The proposed changes are complicated, with alternatives available at each sub-section.

But in general there are two main options.

  1. One is to apply the proposed amendment across the whole city INCLUDING Old Town – this is the currently recommended option.
  2. The other is to apply the proposed amendment to the rest of the city and a special set of regulations to the Old Town Overlay District.

The Planning & Zoning Commission in its review of the proposals DECLINED to treat the Old Town Overlay District as a distinct area with unique requirements. So if you think it can be taken for granted with our city boards and commissions that Old Town is worthy of unique consideration, think again, and be warned.

Here are some reasons why Old Town is different from the rest of the city.

  • Old Town has a very diverse mix of housing, from very small modest homes to large Victorian ones, and includes a lot of rental property.
  • Old Town has 100-year old utility lines.
  • Old Town has narrow streets – in some areas when cars are parked both sides fire trucks cannot get down them.
  • Old Town has no homeowners association, nor deed restrictions such as many of the city’s more modern communities enjoy. Old Town is completely dependent on the zoning ordinances to protect its neighborhoods.

The Old Town Overlay District Option

Of the two main sets of options being brought to Council, the regulations proposed for the Old Town Overlay District sets limits on the area being used for the business, the number of customer/client visits per day, hours of operation, parking, the number of customers in the home at one time, and the proximity to other home-based businesses, and forbids signage.

The Old Town Overlay District option prohibits retail sales and excludes certain types of business known to generate high traffic or noise. It requires businesses to obtain a permit in order to receive customer visits to the home, and the permit process would notify neighbors within 200 feet of a public hearing at the Planning and Zoning Commission. You should refer to this option formally as “Section 5.03.020.F – Option 4.”

The Whole-Town Option

The recommended option allows signage, and places no limits on the area being used for the business nor the the number of visits received in a day. Parking is restricted only to the extent of the property line, and retail sales and services are unlimited except by a list of prohibited business types. No permits or notifications are required.

This option is proposed for all of Georgetown INCLUDING the Old Town Overlay District. The Old Town Overlay District is a defined historical area of Old Town, and includes most but not all of Old Town. Adoption of the Old Town Overlay District option would offer its safeguards to the Overlay District at least.

The whole-town option has been recommended by staff, and is now recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission. So the idea that Old Town is different has so far NOT been supported.

Is Old Town different? The answer seems to be up to us.

To email Council members including the Mayor use these addresses:
mayor@georgetown.org
district1@georgetown.org
district2@georgetown.org
district3@georgetown.org
district4@georgetown.org
district5@georgetown.org
district6@georgetown.org
district7@georgetown.org

The agenda is here. It’s Item H, the first in the regular agenda, so it’ll happen fairly quickly from 6 pm.

Here’s the staff report to Council:

5th Round UDC Reading – Staff Report

Exhibit 5 is shown below:

Exhibit 5 – Home-Based Business

 

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