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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Home Businesses Should Not Be An Issue For Carolina Beach

Editorial: Home Businesses Should Not Be An Issue For Carolina Beach

Managing Editor

No one wants a fast-food restaurant to open at the corner of their quiet residential street. And there are zoning regulations that prohibit that scenario.
There are also long-standing zoning rules that have permitted "home occupations" or "home businesses" in Carolina Beach for many years.
Is there a problem?
Occasionally, and the existing rules serve as tools to deal with those issues. For example, if a home business is getting UPS or FedEx deliveries every day and it's blocking traffic and annoying the neighbors, residents expect the Town to put a stop to the traffic madness. 
The existing rules prohibit and deal with those situations when they arise. 
There are home-based hair salons, attorney offices, Internet businesses, tutoring services, music lessons, and other types of home occupations. With all of these uses permitted over many years, there's never been public outcry to address a "problem".
Historical fact: The Island Gazette started out as a home-based business on Hamlet Avenue back in the 1970's. Later on it relocated to a commercial location on Lake Park Blvd as the business grew and storage and increased visibility became necessities for prosperity.
That's largely the point of home-based businesses. People start out small because they want it that way or because that's what their start-up budgets can afford. Later on as they grow out of that type of situation, they upgrade to a commercial location.
Nothing wrong with that.
Home-based businesses are a more economical way to get the entrepreneurial ball rolling and once momentum builds, it's on to more profitable locations.
Home-based businesses are as American as apple pie or baseball. (Forgive the cliché, but it's true.)
How technical should we get and how much regulation is too much regulation as long as the rules serve to avoid undue impacts on neighbors?
It's a balance.
The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider changing the regulations for home occupations at their December 14, meeting.
It's worth mentioning that all existing home businesses will be grandfathered in and held to the rules in place when they were first approved.
Yet those business owners should still voice their opinions to inform Council about how they operate on good terms with their surrounding neighbors.
Likewise, neighbors with issues should voice their opinions on how to fashion the new rules if any are justified.
Some have commented that home-based businesses have an unfair advantage over "brick-and-mortar" businesses that have higher overhead costs of doing business. Here's something to consider, and forgive the abruptness, but if a home-based business located in a residential district adhering to more constrained rules for traffic is generating competition for a business located in a commercial district on a major thoroughfare, with far more visibility and square footage, perhaps it's time the larger business reconsider their business model to better compete with the that micro-home-business. That's like Wal-Mart complaining about Food Lion or Food Lion complaining about Sea Merchants or Sea Merchants complaining about a roadside produce stand. It doesn't make sense. (And that's in order of size for comparison.). Those businesses focus on their respective customers and serve a market based on their customer's needs and desires.
Hair salons were a repeating topic at a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. A hair salon with four of five chairs would surely never be brought down by a home-based hair salon unless the commercial salon was doing something horribly wrong. And without major market research, no commercial business can claim a home-based business is the cause of their woes without first considering other commercial competitors.
You don't see McDonald's complaining about the burger shack around the corner with much less overhead and paying less for utilities.
The Town should regulate based on the impacts to residential areas, not based on the factor of overhead and competition. It was stated at the recent Planning Commission meeting there are currently five permitted home-based hairdressers operating in Town. A Google search turned up about five or six commercial hair salons in Carolina Beach. There were too many to count in the Wilmington area on Google maps.
Let's face it; in this economy home-occupations serve as income for those starting out, unemployed trying to earn an income, telecommuters, retirees supplementing income and other valid reasons.
The Town should be careful not to tighten the regulatory screws too tight. Strike a balance.