County considers tightened rules on home businesses

Published on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 by By Jake Lunden

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Whatcom County Council will take another look at proposed regulations impacting home-based business, after voting unanimously to send proposed changes back to the council's planning committee.

The proposed changes sought to regulate the size and scope of low-impact home-based business allowed to operate without permits, and to better explain which type of business would be low impact or high impact and allowed on residential land.

Among the proposed regulations were limits on hours of operation, noise, electricity usage, impacts such as fumes, a maximum of two business-related vehicles and screening vehicles from view. Council members differed on specifics, but agreed that more work is needed before implementing new regulations.

Low-impact home-based business are allowed in residentially-zoned areas without a land-use permit under current regulations, while higher-impact business must first obtain permits. The proposed changes will not affect business that obtained permits under existing law.

While current regulation limits low-impact home businesses to 25 percent of the size of the home, the proposed changes limit the size to 1,250 square feet, or 2,500 square feet if housed in an accessory building.

Larger sizes would be allowed if housed in accessory buildings built before 1975. For home-based businesses in urban areas, a 500-square-foot size limit would apply.