Recently, through the request of Regional District East Kootenay (RDEK) Area A Director Mike Sosnowski, some changes to the Home Based Business (HBB) Bylaw in the RDEK were proposed.
According to Sosnowski, traditional HBB regulations would not change significantly. The activity will have to be totally inside the residence or a small shop with no outside storage. This can be conducted on any size property. The expanded HBB would allow for a greater range of activities on parcels that are five acres and larger. These activities would be governed by a new bylaw with restrictions to the size of a facility that includes outside storage, number of employees and the types of activities allowed.
Both the City of Fernie and the District of Sparwood Councils did not support the proposal by the RDEK.
This is not the first time Sparwood Council has rejected this proposal. In a special meeting held on September 23 Council rejected the proposal for a second time based on a series of concerns. Some of which included: The expanded activities and allowances for non-resident employees could result in very intensive commercial/industrial operations, which would be inappropriate in rural areas; a conflict with the Regional Growth Strategy and challenges to enforcement.
Fernie City Council also cited some of their own concerns including: creating an uneven playing field for businesses within the municipality as compared to businesses within the Regional District and similar to Sparwood’s concern, there needs to be an obligation to monitor business within the zone, which is not built into the bylaw as drafted.
“To create a zone that is so broad, that covers such a large portion of the valley could have negative ramifications that we would have to live with for decades,” said Fernie City Councillor Randal Macnair.
Fernie residents also voiced their concerns at the September 23 Council meeting.
“This rezoning will encourage existing and prospective businesses to look outside the City of Fernie to grow or establish their businesses as it will be far cheaper to operate in this area,” stated Fernie resident Simon Piney in a letter directed to Council.
“The City should be fighting this tooth and nail to protect existing businesses,” said RDEK resident Gary Walker.
Director Sosnowski believes there are a lot of misconceptions about the proposed bylaw amendment.
“I was asked to pursue this because there are businesses currently operating in Area A that are operating illegally,” said Sosnowski. “Nobody wants to operate illegally looking over their shoulders; they are good law abiding citizens.”
At the Fernie Council meeting on September 23, Councillors asked Sosnowski how the amended bylaw would benefit Fernie.
“The benefit to the municipalities is most of the revenues from these activities will be spent at businesses inside the municipality,” said Sosnowski in a subsequent interview with The Free Press. “There would be little or no competition with commercial businesses within the municipalities given the proposed restrictions.
“With the restrictions in the bylaw there is a limit to the size of the expanded HBB and if one becomes very successful, it would have to move to the municipality in order to operate.”
Recently Sosnowski requested and got a deferral from the RDEK board to delay the vote on having a public hearing on this bylaw until December. This will allow time for public consultation at a Town Hall Meeting on October 28 at 7:30 pm at the Fernie Family Centre.