Saluda zoning board amends home occupation ordinance

Published 3:59 pm Thursday, February 17, 2011

Saluda Board of commissioners must now approve

A fervent discussion at the Jan. 17 Saluda Board of Commissioners’ meeting sent the town’s zoning board back to work on proposed changes related to the town’s home occupation definition.

The zoning board’s meeting Feb. 15 aimed to rectify the following concerns raised in January: verbiage related to vehicles, the creation of a sliding scale for determining the number of accessory buildings allowed based on lot size and the elimination of CH zones from the definition.

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“I think we’ve addressed everything the commissioners were concerned about and I do think we have a good amendment on the three main things they asked that we work on,” Bright said.

Bright said commissioners first asked the planning and zoning board to study the home occupation definition after receiving complaints from a resident about large amounts of heavy equipment stored in the yard of a nearby home occupation. He said looking at one portion brought to light numerous other issues.

Resident Bruce Campbell was that resident.

“In no way do I want to stop small businesses, home occupations, from being allowed in the home, but when it goes outside the home you can imagine what that can do to the property next door,” Campbell said. “By allowing this business to exist in an R1 district it really shows the flaws in the ordinance,” he said.

Campbell said he appreciates the hard work of the zoning board to address issues within the ordinance.

And hard work it has been Bright said.

“When you address home occupation for example that leads you to accessory building and then that leads you to signage – everything gets linked,” said zoning board chairman Henry Bright. “So its quite a process. But I think we’re doing some good work.”

Saluda’s zoning ordinances do not currently restrict businesses inside a residence or accessory building, nor do they restrict the number of vehicles or accessory buildings used.

The zoning board approved presenting the following amendments to the changes originally presented to the board of commissioners last month.

The definition of a home occupation, if approved next month by the commissioners, would read:
“An occupation, profession, activity or use that is clearly a customary, secondary, and incidental use of a residential dwelling unit which does not alter the exterior of the property or affect the residential character of the neighborhood.”

Other changes include verbiage that reads, “The maximum allotted space for any and all home occupations is limited to no more than twenty-five (25) percent of the finished and heated square footage of the residential dwelling and in addition, any and all space needed in one accessory building.”

Board members also approved a proposal to include a sliding scale for the number of accessory buildings allowed on a given property. The current ordinance does not limit the number of such buildings allowed.

If approved by commissioners, the scale would now allow for two accessory buildings totaling no more than 1,000 square feet (maximum of 800 square feet for any one building) for lots up to two acres. Lots more than two acres but no more than four acres would be allowed two accessory buildings up to 1,400 square feet in total (maximum 1,200 square feet for any one building).
Finally, for any lot more than four acres, an owner would be allowed to put into place up to three accessory buildings totaling 1,800 square feet (maximum 1,600 square feet for any one building).

A new ordinance would also restrict an accessory building from being built on a vacant lot and would prevent someone from subdividing a lot in a way that would leave any accessory building as the single structure on a lot. The ordinance also asks that owners construct accessory buildings with similar exterior materials as the primary residence.

Residents like Dotty Eargle believe the zoning board should not stifle entrepreneurs.

“I don’t feel like we should restrict home occupations,” Eargle said during the January meeting. “Zoning is here to help people make the most of property.”

Hal Green, a former planning board member, said he too is concerned what the restrictions could do to people already struggling.

“To restrict home businesses to within the four walls of a residence and accessory buildings means you are effectively restricting home businesses to things like computer programming, hair dressing … and you are limiting a very large number of blue collar kind of work,” Green said. “The purpose of a home business is to give someone the opportunity to make a living when they have very slim capital resources to go to a commercial area to buy or rent space.”

He said this troubles him given the nature of unemployment in North Carolina. Green said from his home he is easily able to see a $1 million home and just down the road, a trailer.

When asked about the need to keep a certain visual aesthetic or character in place, Green quoted Saluda’s late Mayor Lee Clifford who described Saluda as, “eclectic.”

“It’s a place with people from all income categories and ways of life,” Green said. “Those people who have moved presumably realized they were moving into an eclectic community.”

Bright said he feels it’s important to take into consideration the character of a neighborhood in order to preserve, if nothing else, property values. He said for any town, preserving character makes for a neighborhood that is more desirable to live in.

“Our plans are to really look at Saluda and have some vision for what Saluda will look like in the future,” Bright said.