Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Zoning change would benefit home businesses

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
July 22, 2006

VERNON - Residents who live in certain areas of town could soon be allowed to start small businesses in their homes.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a plan to allow residents to start home occupations in the town's planned residential development zones and planned development zones.

The commission discussed the potential change briefly Thursday, but voted to continue deliberations at its Aug. 3 meeting.

Most of the housing in these zones consists of single-family, two-family, and multi-family housing, including condominiums.

But unlike other residential zones, which allow home occupations with special permits issued by the PZC, residents cannot start home-based businesses in the planned residential development and planned development zones.

The impetus for the change is a number of inquiries from residents looking to start home-based occupations, Town Planner Neil S. Pade said.

Pade, who formerly served as the town's economic development coordinator, said a number of residents had asked him if they could set up small businesses in their home.

Because of the zoning regulations, Pade said his answer was always no.

When the planned residential development and planned development zones were originally conceived, Pade said they were intended to be "transitional" zones between the town's commercial and lower density residential areas.

So it's somewhat unusual that home-based businesses would be allowed in more traditional, lower density residential areas and not the transitional zones, Pade said.

Although the town's zoning regulations don't specifically define the types of businesses allowed in residential areas, home-based businesses are not allowed to change the character of the neighborhood in a visible manner.

They are also prohibited from displaying signs and cannot produce any objectionable noise.

Music lessons or a private practice that doesn't produce a significant amount of traffic could be examples of home occupations, Pade said.

Under the proposed regulations, home occupations would be permitted in planned residential and planned development zones with a special permit issued by the PZC.

In the case of someone living in a multi-family development, the PZC must be presented with evidence of approval from the development's homeowners association.

Pade said this provision is geared toward condominium owners and should prevent home-based businesses from being conducted in rental developments, which house a more transient population.

"It's not possible for someone who is in an apartment to submit an approval from a homeowners association," Pade said.

Commission members wondered if language could be added specifically excluding apartments.

But Pade cautioned against such a move, saying apartments aren't specifically defined in the town's zoning regulations so adding the word could have implications on the remainder of the zoning code.

©Journal Inquirer 2006