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Ritchot Council Increases Vigilance Over Home-Based Businesses

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Nicole Rosner of Shake Your Tail Feather Grooming addresses Ritchot's council at a conditional use hearing.

Home-based businesses are on the rise in our current economy, fostered by both the work-from-home atmosphere fostered during the COVID-19 pandemic and the overall rise of the self-employed or those employed by the gig economy pre-pandemic.

But figuring out how to govern and be governed is sometimes a grey area for home-based business owners and legislators alike.

A recent public hearing showcased a number of letters in opposition to the opening of a new home-based pet salon, and now Ritchot’s council is increasing vigilance about ensuring compliance for home-based businesses in the area.

Mayor Chris Ewen has experience on both sides of the issue.

“I believe we are seeing more home-based businesses for many reasons,” says Mayor Ewen. “One being the ability to work with an open and pro-business municipality that encourages anyone to invest in themselves and their community. The right way, [this] can create a flexible opportunity by operating in their home, saving on overhead and start-up costs.”

Despite concerns some small businesses exploit areas of municipal by-laws pertaining to home-based business, Ewen says, in his time on council, they have continued to work toward building a safe and enjoyable environment for all residents and business owners.

“There aren’t always concerns. The goal is to educate all residents about the appropriate steps to take when registering or starting a business,” says Ewen. “This initiative gives us an opportunity to meet new business owners and ensure that they are best set up for everyone’s success and happiness.”

Business owners considering operating out of their home are always encouraged to consider traffic concerns, safety issues, environmental hazards, as well as the necessary permits and paperwork.

At the end of October, Shake Your Tail Feather Grooming, owned and operated by certified pet stylist Nicole Rosner, opened in a home at 1914 Carriere Road in Grande Pointe.

“I have been grooming since 2013. I have had my own business since 2015 and have been using different salons over the years,” says Rosner. “In 2017, I also started doing house call grooming. I have always wanted my own salon so my partner and I have been looking. This property [on Carriere Road] had everything we wanted and needed. It was a perfect fit.”

As an entrepreneur, Rosner had been saving money for quite a while to establish her new location. She knew she would need to apply for a conditional use permit with the RM of Ritchot, and when the RM of Ritchot required her to present a business plan she used a template they provided.

The process to secure a conditional use permit also requires a public hearing, where neighbouring properties within a certain radius must be alerted and allowed to speak in favour or against the business seeking to open.

Rosner’s experience is an example of a home-based business that receives pushback against opening.

“We needed to get a conditional use permit, which we did receive in late October. Also if we had to build anything, we would have needed a permit for that, but luckily there were rooms that were already built,” says Rosner. “We did go to the public hearing. It was really nerve-wracking. The council was pleasant to deal with. It was unfortunate to hear all the letters in opposition from all our neighbours. It doesn’t make you feel very welcomed to the neighbourhood when you hear that.”

Council received eight letters of opposition covering concerns such as not wanting increased business or traffic related to business in the area.

Janine Boulanger, councillor for Ward 4, agreed with the concerns saying that residential areas should remain residential.

“It’s very appealing to open up a business because you have the space, but the reason people are on two acres is to get away from the business aspect of the city. Those people who have been there for 38 years, 40 years, they’ve got it right,” said Boulanger at the hearing. “This is a bedroom community. And even though I understand this will be minimal impact on the area—I truly believe that with five cars a day, I don’t see that being an issue—it just opens it up for other people to want to do similar things, and then next thing you know we’ve got little pockets of business in the area, which is what I don’t think Grande Pointe was intended to be.”

At the meeting, Ewen said, “If we don’t maintain and control what can be done, a lot of these business will operate without coming to Ritchot [council]. And that was one of my biggest pushes, was to be open and honest about what you will be doing in the area, so not only that you can promote it legally, but we can help you as a resident and business owner thrive.”

“I think current council’s on the right track with cleaning up some of these issues that we’re having with businesses operating in places they shouldn’t be,” said Councillor Shane Pelletier. “I’d like to see us continue to enforce that and pushing for compliance on that.”

After the hearing, Rosner’s application was approved with four council members voting in favour and two against. Additional conditions were included, such as limiting employees to one and preventing the future expansion of her business to include a daycare or kennel service.

“I had no intention of that anyway,” says Rosner, who was happy to accept the conditions of the application. “It can be very hard to find a small space with running water to have a salon. And with COVID, I can’t exactly go introduce myself around the neighbourhood anyway.”

Mayor Ewen is also the owner of PERK Coffee Bar, which operates out of his home in Île-des-Chênes. Ewen’s business operates a coffee cart that can travel to various events and offer refreshments. They also operate an online store, which conducts a delivery service.

Ewen considers it a benefit that he has personal experience in what it’s like to own a home-based business. It helps him consider the larger picture when entrepreneurs apply for permits from council.

“I believe being a business owner that has gone through the process with and to council, understanding my parameters of what I can and cannot do within my conditional use, allows me to understand what other home-based business owners should expect to go through,” says Ewen. “This is much more a benefit that there is a councillor that has been through the process than it is a bias.”

Ewen’s home-based business also opened after achieving a conditional use permit secured after a public hearing from which Ewen recused himself. The hearing for Ewen’s business also brought to light several letters of concern from people who were against the opening of his business within the condominium complex where he lives. But overall, Ewen says the conditional use process was the “easiest part of starting my business.”

As mayor, Ewen believes all businesses that comply with the rules, regulations, and laws of the area they operate in can create opportunity and growth for the surrounding region.

And despite Rosner’s bumpy experience, she has an encouraging message for any future entrepreneurs interested in starting a business, home-based or otherwise.

“Go for it,” she says. “You will have problems along the way, but overcoming them is so rewarding. Try not to let negative parts hold you back.”

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