Proposed changes for Douglas County home occupation regulations received a lot of pushback from residents concerned about traffic generated by businesses in neighborhoods, despite the changes being more restrictive on vehicle trips than current guidelines.
A May 11 town hall revealed vocal opposition and some support for regulations allowing residential businesses to use more space on their property for business and limiting the kind of vehicles that can be used and related vehicle travels.
The proposed regulations only apply to Class 2 home occupations on property in unincorporated Douglas County larger than 4.5 acres in agricultural or rural development zoning. The regulations would not supercede Homeowners Association agreements or other neighborhood covenants.
Class 2 home occupations are businesses, professions, occupations, or trades conducted at a residence where someone is living that require a county permit and allow for two nonhousehold employees.
Currently, Class 2 home occupations can use 50% of the first floor of their residence and an accessory unit up to 1,500 square feet. The changes proposed would increase the size of an accessory unit allowed to 3,000 square feet and maintain the 50% regulation.
The proposed changes that garnered the most concern though focused on the vehicles associated with a business. Vehicles trips associated with Class 2 home occupations would be limited to eight one-way trips per day. Currently, there is no stated limit on the number of vehicle trips for this type of business and just says traffic shall not “significantly affect” the area.
Similarly, the regulations do not define what kind of vehicles or how many a Class 2 home occupation is allowed. Proposed language would limit vehicles to one weighing under 26,000 pounds and one trailer, for a total allowable weight of 40,000 pounds.
“Giant trucks are allowed on the roads right now,” Commissioner George Teal said. “Right now, that loosey-goosey definition of minimal traffic is undefined.”
Despite repeated efforts at clarification from staff and Teal about the current regulations, residents that would be potentially impacted by the change insisted it would result in heavier traffic on roads not designed to handle large trucks or high usage.
“These proposed changes open up the door so that you can have as many as eight trips a day,” Scott Anderson, a resident of Surrey Ridge Estates, said. “In our neighborhood right now, there’s very little traffic and it’s almost always local.”
Another concern voiced repeatedly at the town hall asked about how the county would enforce its regulations. Douglas County’s Manager of Zoning Compliance Michael Cairy said the compliance process would not change with the regulations.
The county has three compliance officers who respond to complaints filed by residents and complete annual permit inspections to ensure the home occupations meet the regulations, Cairy said.
“We do not drive around patrolling from property to property,” he said. “We would have to have an army of people.”
Some audience members responded that they didn’t want to be the ones responsible for reporting violations and accused the county of pitting neighbors against neighbors.
However, a few audience members asked the commissioners to approve the proposed changes to support local business owners and property rights.
“The current Class 2 home occupations criteria totally excludes contractors, craftsmen, tradesmen who leave their property with equipment to do work at a customer’s site,” one man said. “I appreciate the county’s willingness to review the current criteria to consider changing it.”
Teal expressed support for the changes, while Commissioner Lora Thomas said she was opposed to the updates because of the potential impacts to neighbors. Commissioner Abe Laydon wasn’t at the town hall.