Council stalls on home business rulesVote to define legal home businesses tabled due to tie vote
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
A measure that would have tightened Newport’s ordinance that regulates home businesses stalled on Thursday, derailed by a city council split over the changes that would have brought the law in line with surrounding municipalities.
The proposed changes would have, for the first time, specifically identified the types of small-scale commercial operations that are allowed to work out of Newport residences under the city’s home occupation ordinance.
But, with mayor Tim Geraghty absent, the council split on the vote, with council members Tom Ingemann and Pauline Schottmuller advocating for its passage, and Bill Sumner and Corb Hopkins saying the proposed ordinance was “too restrictive.”
The ordinance will be revisited at the Aug. 20 meeting.
Sumner and Hopkins focused much of their concern on requirements in the ordinance that would have limited the area in a dwelling that could be used for a home business to 20 percent of the home’s livable area.
In addition, homeowners would be allowed to use up to 50 percent of garage space for home occupation use, which could include uses like pet grooming; office facilities for lawyers, architects, engineers and similar professions; carpentry; or small engine repair.
But, both Sumner and Hopkins voted against adoption of the amendments twice on Thursday, even after a bit of in-meeting haggling that saw the space limit upped to 30 percent of a home.
They also chafed at limits the ordinance would place on the amount of traffic a home occupancy would be allowed to generate.
“I think this is way overboard,” Sumner told the council. “Do we go in with yardsticks and tape measures?”
The ordinance is based largely on neighboring St. Paul Park’s home occupation laws, Ingemann said after the meeting. The changes proposed are “pretty typical of most other cities,” said city administrator Brian Anderson.
“We’re doing it to protect other citizens, not to restrict businesses,” Anderson said.
Currently, the city has two active home occupancy permits, though, the administrator said, how many businesses are operating out of homes in Newport is “anybody’s guess.”
The need for revamped laws governing home businesses became apparent earlier this year when Newport officials began tackling the two-year-old case of a resident operating a light manufacturing business out of his Newport home.
Ingemann said the amended ordinance is needed “so we’re not taking our neighborhoods and turning them into manufacturing (and) industrial areas. We have houses, we have homes; that’s where we live.”