Council considers permitting home businesses on lots as small as one acre

BRUCEDALE – Guelph/Eramosa residents are invited to tell council what they think about proposed changes to the township’s home business bylaw. 

Particularly, council is seeking input on lot sizes covered by the bylaw. 

Township staff have repeatedly recommended the bylaw pertain only to properties at least five acres (two hectares) in size, while the mayor and council are considering shrinking the minimum lot size to as small as one acre (0.4 hectares). 

The proposed bylaw revision defines home occupations as a “small scale trade or artisan craft conducted for gain or profit within an accessory building.” 

This includes wood working, small engine repair, stonemasonry, carpentry, painting, plumbing, electrical work, sheet metal work, carpet laying and similar trades, including general contractors. 

It does not include wholesale outlets, warehouses, contractor or tradesperson establishments, retail stores, automobile services, transport establishments or automobile body/repair shops. 

The work must be conducted by someone living in the main dwelling, with up to two additional outside employees.  Up to 25 per cent of a residence’s floor area may be used for the home occupation. Only one home occupation or farm home industry is set to be permitted on agriculturally zoned lots. 

Home occupations must be secondary to the main residential use and not change the residential character of the property or become a public nuisance due to noise, traffic, storage or parking. 

The proposed bylaw changes have been brought to council “many times,” noted Guelph/Eramosa manager of planning and environment Meagan Ferris during a committee of the whole meeting on April 16. 

Council had previously requested planning staff consider reducing the minimum lot size to one acre, but after consideration staff returned to council with the five-acre minimum still in place. 

It’s important to get it right, said Mayor Chris White, to avoid creating “a lot of friction” between neighbours. 

He noted if the bylaw does apply to lots as small as one acre, it should not include lots in hamlets or clusters of houses. 

Councillors Bruce Dickieson and Corey Woods are strong proponents that the home business bylaw apply to one-acre properties.

In Centre Wellington and Puslinch, similar bylaws already apply to properties as small as one acre. Woods asked Ferris if those bylaws had been generating complaints. 

In Centre Wellington, the bylaw doesn’t include as many types of home occupations as the one proposed in Guelph/Eramosa, Ferris said. 

But in Puslinch, yes, there has been a lot of complaints, she said. These complaints, particularly regarding home occupations on small lots, are part of the reason Guelph/Eramosa staff is recommending the five-acre minimum. 

If Guelph/Eramosa council approves the one-acre minium and it cause issues, “it’s quite challenging to walk that back,” Ferris said. 

The public meeting is scheduled for May 6 at 1pm, and council is hoping to make a decision by June.