The City of Victoria is looking at increasing the number of home-based businesses allowed, unless they are related to cannabis.
City staff presented a zoning bylaw amendment Thursday morning at committee of the whole, recommending two updates to the current zoning regulation bylaws that would expand the number of “home occupations” from one to three. The bylaw would also add explicit wording prohibiting home-based cannabis businesses.
While dispensaries are not allowed in residential neighbourhoods, current bylaws don’t restrict other cannabis-related businesses that could operate from a home, like a mail-order service.
“Nuisance and security concerns could arise if an online cannabis dispensary with cannabis stored onsite is operating in a residential neighbourhood,” the city’s business ambassador Quinn Anglin said in a presentation to council.
Council also discussed using secondary buildings on properties — like carriage houses or a detached garage — as a site for business. Coun. Ben Isitt asked why this is not currently allowed.
“The intent is not to create commercial districts within residential neighbourhoods in a significant way,” responded Jonathan Tinney, City director of sustainable planning and community development. “If we start to create situations where we have standalone structures on properties that are only for businesses, then they cease to become accessory uses.”
Coun. Geoff Young suggested home-based businesses were on the rise because of the difference in commercial, industrial and home property tax rates, which create an economic incentive to do business at home. Allowing more of them could create more problems, including using the secondary structures as “mini hotels” for short term rentals.
“It’s a double issue. There’s the removal of carriage houses and basement suites out of residential into commercial and industrial uses, and also, we start to get the impacts on the neighbourhood,” he said. “[A carpenter] who wants to make the kitchen cabinets in his garage instead of an industrial property in Rock Bay, also wants to make them in the evening, so you’ve also got the sound issues.”
Coun. Jeremy Loveday said Young made a good argument about property taxes, but he thinks the rise could be due to other reasons.
“As economy shifts, and there are less and less secure and stable jobs, more and more people have side-hustles,” he said. “If we want people to actually get business licences and have their side hustle be realized by the city as a business, most of those will be home occupations.”
If the number of businesses is expanded to three, only one would be allowed to have customers visit the property. The city will vote on the bylaw amendment at a later council meeting.
Information on home businesses is the most frequently requested type of information from the city’s business hub.
Other municipalities like Langford, Sidney and Central Saanich do not regulate the number of home-based businesses. Saanich permits two in multiple dwelling units, townhomes and condos, but does not regulate those in a single family dwelling. View Royal and Vancouver allow three, and Oak Bay allows two.