Earlier in the month, Katherine Taylor posted to our blog an article from the Small Business Association (SBA) which highlighted some of the difficulties that residential – i.e. home based – businesses face. The SBA estimates that up to 50% of small businesses are run out of a person's home. With the increasing use of internet tools, such as video-conferencing and online faxing services, those with an entrepreneurial spirit can easily jump-start a company from their garage. Additionally, with larger businesses employing furlough days and flex-time, traditional corporate work is being performed at home.
Having a home based businesses is not without it's challenges. Zoning laws for home based businesses are often very stringent. The SBA notes that zoning codes frequently prohibit signs, vehicles of certain classes, exterior improvements relating to the business, and outdoor storage. Additionally, zoning codes can limit the number of employees of a home based business and the number of visitors.
In Howard County, there are a few very specific zoning regulations (opens a .pdf) that a home based business should be aware of:
- The home-based business can't occupy more than 33% of the gross floor area of the dwelling OR 800 square feet, whichever is less;
- The business owner can't have clients visit in a detached garage;
- There can be no exterior evidence of the business;
- Only certain occupations are allowed to conduct home-based businesses.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it gives a general idea of the difficulties faced by a potential business owner seeking to establish their business out of their home. Some of the regulations are very sensible - let's face it, no one wants a semi-truck rolling up their street at three in the morning so the neighbor can get the latest shipment of widgets; however, in an economy that is not based on manufacturing but on intellectual products, home based businesses are likely to have little impact on the residential characteristics of the neighborhood.
For those looking to start a residential business, the SBA does have a great page on establishing a home based business.