Minnetonka Considers Stricter Home Business Rules

Issues sometimes arise when a small business grows and expands outside of the home. This may be noticed by neighbors through increases in storage, signage on the property, traffic to the home and noises from the property.

The is taking a look at home occupation rules.

Proposed amendments to an ordinance first created in 1982 were sent to the Planning Commission for review from the City Council last week.

During the past few years, resident inquiries about working in the home have become more common. While there is no specific data on the number of home occupations in Minnetonka, a 2011 Eden Prairie Business Survey provides a comparison. The Eden Prairie report indicated that 30 percent of the city’s businesses are home-based.

Issues sometimes arise when a small business grows and expands outside of the home. This may be noticed by neighbors through increases in storage, signage on the property, traffic to the home and noises from the property.

Many times, resolving home occupation complaints require a large amount of staff time, sometimes taking months or years to resolve, according to city staff. In the meantime, the issues cause frustration and tension among the neighbors who live nearby.

“It’s not that we think home occupations are a problem in a general sense, but our current ordinance is lacking in some regard to allow us to address in a timely manner those businesses that really don’t belong in residential neighborhoods,” said City Manager John Gunyou. “It’s really things like construction and landscaping businesses that involve storage of machinery and supplies.”

The city reports that complaints regarding home occupations are usually received through the city’s online Minnetonka Mike system. Typically, there was one or more a month submitted in the last two years, which is up from the last five-year period 2004-2009, where the average was about one every other month. It is estimated that at least 1,000 staff hours are spent in the investigation and enforcement of home occupations annually.

In one investigation that was spurred by a neighbor’s report, there was an auto repair business that was bothering the neighbor, and the city received at least 10 separate requests over five years to address the issue. The challenge for the city was that the current home occupation ordinance was met, and the city was unable to enforce a violation of the ordinance. There were no employees, and the work was conducted inside an enclosed garage.

The proposed ordinance defines that auto repair is not an acceptable use and the repair business would not have been allowed to continue.

Current Process

The city currently regulates home occupations using a two-tiered system. The current regulations are simplistic but lack clarity for a homeowner, according to city staff. The lack of specifics also makes it tough for the city to enforce.

Home occupations are allowed as either an accessory residential use or, by conditional use permit. By code, a home occupation is allowed as an accessory use if it meets the following criteria:

• The home occupation is clearly secondary to the principal use;

• Does not change the nature of the principal use;

• Limited retail sales activity;

• No exterior evidence of the occupation;

• No significant increase in traffic or demand for parking;

• No significant increase in levels of noise, air or other pollution;

• No exterior signs;

• No persons employed in the business who do not reside in the dwelling.

A conditional use permit may be granted if it meets the following:

• There is a maximum of one outside employee;

• There is adequate off-street parking for the number of employees or customers

per day;

• The parking area is screened on all sides;

• There is no outside storage;

• Business hours do not exceed 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.;

• This section also applies to any home occupation with an exterior indication of the business use, outside parking of a commercial vehicle or vehicle identified as being used as part of a business.

Proposed Ordinance

The proposed ordinance being reviewed by the Planning Commission includes:

• Adding an introductory purpose statement to provide a clarity regarding the intent of the ordinance as it relates to home occupations, in that the business is clearly secondary to the use as a home.

• Adding, deleting and modifying existing language to provide clarity and definition to existing regulations. For example, 25 percent of the home can be devoted to the business, no retail or wholesale establishments.

• Requiring an interim use permit for any home occupation that has outside employees. This clearly defines the requirement to contact the city for approval when dealing with multiple employees.

• Requiring an interim use permit for home occupations that generate regularly scheduled clients by appointment.

• Expressly prohibiting certain home occupations that have a tendency to outgrow their accessory use status as secondary to the residential use, such as auto repair and construction.

• Maintaining the existing two-tiered system: Allow home occupations as either an accessory use or, an interim use (as opposed to a conditional use). The change to an interim use allows the city to place a time limitation on the home occupation use as opposed to allowing the use to run with the land in perpetuity (or until the use has discontinued for 12 or more months).

• Other stipulations: prohibiting retail and wholesale sales on the premises except by phone or electronic mediums; limiting the amount of trips generated by the home occupation; limiting parking associated with the home occupation use to four cars on site.


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