The Webster Groves City Council on July 2 gave first and second readings to amend city code that regulates home-based businesses. A final vote is set for July 18.
Under the changes, the definition of a “home occupation” is being simplified to mean any occupation, business, profession or commercial activity being conducted by members of a household living on the premises. The occupation must be incidental and subordinate to the use of the residence.
All home-based businesses must have a valid occupancy permit and must obtain a business license.
Mara Perry, director of planning and development, said proposed zoning code changes include regulating the number of employees, hours of operation, signage, deliveries and parking requirements. Exceptions could be granted through the conditional use permit process, Perry said.
Banned home businesses include ammunition/firearms sales, auto repair and services, dance academies, medical marijuana dispensaries, medical/dental offices, restaurants, tattoo parlors, funeral homes and veterinary clinics.
During the last part of the public hearing on July 2, the council voted 5 to 2 — with Mayor Gerry Welch and Council Member Frank Janoski opposed — to allow construction or landscape companies through a conditional use permit process.
“We’ve spent years listening to neighbors complaints about equipment on the streets and employees coming in and out all day,” Welch said of home-based construction and landscape companies.
Council Member Pam Bliss said the conditional use permit process would allow neighbors to have a say on such companies. Vibration, noise and other parts of the city’s commercial performance standards for businesses are included in the proposed changes. Commercial vehicles wouldn’t be mandated to park in a garage, though they are encouraged to do so. Exceptions would be allowed, such as parking behind a home, if screening – such as vegetation or a fence – is provided.
Another change allows for a single flatbed trailer, up to 14 feet long, to be parked at a home business, though no materials could be stored on it. However, the city is concerned about enforcement, since city employees can’t access private property to ensure compliance.
Several council members were concerned about a provision banning company advertising on home business vehicles, and another provision that limits customers/clients at a home business to no more than two at a time.
Council Member Laura Arnold said many trucks, used by firms from outside of the city, are regularly parked for long periods of time at homes for remodeling and other projects. The proposed law would limit parking and vehicle signs for home-based firms.
But Janoski insisted much of the parking by outside firms is during the day, not on evenings and weekends when some people are trying to sell homes.
Perry pointed out that the city gets many complaints about commercial vehicles being parked overnight on streets. Such vehicles, with signage, “are essentially very large business signs in front of a home or on a driveway 24/7,” she said.
In regard to the number of customers and clients allowed at a home business at one time, Janoski said any home-based business can go through the conditional use process to ask for more.
“However, if the same four customers are constantly, all day, using a home’s garage for a music studio, that’s an issue,” Welch said.
She added that homes and garages, in some parts of the city, are located very close together.
The council later voted 7 to 5, with Welch and Janoski opposed, to allow up to three customers or clients at a time.
Webster Groves resident Linda Tatum said she was concerned especially about home-based business vehicles parked in neighborhoods and signage on such vehicles. She suggested city enforcement regarding those issues needed to be ramped up in the evenings and weekends, especially since homes for sale are marketed at those times.
Welch said she was concerned about how these businesses might affect the residential character of neighborhoods and the need to ensure that they don’t create issues for neighbors.