Red Deer County councillors were divided this week over the question of how large home-based businesses could be before they should be steered towards industrial parks.
A pair of businesses, a masonry operation and a foam insulation company, came before the county’s municipal planning commission to seek development permits to operate out of rural residential properties. Both were approved by narrow 4-3 votes after some debate.
Stonework Masonry and Stucco was applying for a home business permit for a site about six km west of the city on Hwy 11A. The location was previously approved for an oilfield services business but the owners want to use it for the masonry business. The county sent letters to neighbours and one was concerned about water use and the size of the business in a residential setting.
Brenda Hoskin, a consultant for the company, told the planning commission that the company planned to store four light trucks inside an existing storage building and there would be 40 to 60 pallets of cultured stone stored outside.
The business would generate less traffic than the oilfield service firm, which ran three large gravel trucks out of the site without any neighbour complaints for seven years. The smaller trucks would also generate less noise, said Hoskin.
But concerns about the size of the business were raised by Councillor George Gehrke, who noted the business is at the upper limit of what the bylaw allows for home-based businesses. That limits any future growth, he added.
Councillor Reimar Poth said council must look at all applications with a eye to how the entire county could be affected.
“I think this is precedent setting,” he said. If the commission approves this business, it must approve others of the same size.
Councillor David Hoar said home occupation permits are issued as a way to incubate small businesses until they have reached a size that they can move to industrial or commercial areas. However, the masonry business is already established and shouldn’t be located on a residential property.
The other four councillors had a different take. Jim Lougheed said he likely would not have supported the application if there hadn’t been a previous business operating on the site without complaint.
Councillor Wood said the business would have less impact than its predecessor. Also, the home-based development permit is for five years and if there are problems with the operation growing, it can be reviewed again.
“It may or may not expand, we don’t know that.”
Similar issues arose with an application by Foamco Industries Inc., a polyurethane foam insulation business that wanted to locate to a rural property five km southwest of Springbrook.
Carolyn Nienhuis, who owns the business with husband Jim, said the business had been in Edgar Industrial Park since 2002. But the oilpatch slowdown led them to sell their bays and they wanted to operate the business from a shop on property where their daughter lives with her husband.
Councillor Poth maintained the business is better suited to a commercial or industrial location and voted against along with Gehrke and Mayor Earl Kinsella.
Councillor David Hoar voted in favour, saying he wanted to see the business get back on their feet so maybe they could move back into an industrial park later.