Home-based business directory remains divisive issue for RVC council

Rocky View County’s (RVC) Governance Committee of council narrowly approved the guidelines which would establish a new home-based business directory at their meeting on March 7.

After a bit of debate and discussion, Rocky View County’s (RVC) Governance Committee of council narrowly approved some guidelines to establish a new home-based business directory at their meeting on March 7.

The final motion will still have to be approved at a RVC general council meeting prior to June 30, but the close vote last week is likely a sign of things to come as the establishment of a home-based business directory remains a divisive issue among councillors .

The first element of the new directory the Governance Committee debated was its purpose. Some on the council felt the main reason for having such a directory would be promotional.

Others, like Division 6 Coun. and RVC Deputy Major Sunny Samra, felt its primary purpose should be enforced.

“Is the [directory] about local business awareness or enforcement?” Samra asked rhetorically. “I will make it pretty loud and clear from my perspective: it’s about enforcement and compliance. Local business (promotion) – it is a byproduct, it will happen eventually if there is a list.”

Samra pointed to information provided by RVC staff that shows only 193 home-based businesses that are currently licensed in the County, far fewer than actually exist. Samra felt the directory should be an internal tool used by RVC to track and eventually register those home-based businesses that operate currently without permits and licenses, and as an external tool to let the public know which businesses are and which are not compliant.

“It’s not about the 193 we have, it’s (about) what we don’t have,” Samra said. “We as a County need to know. We need to have rules, because if we don’t make rules, the landowner makes rules. And if they make rules, it will benefit them and may not benefit adjacent landowners.”

Division 3 Coun. and RVC Major Crystal Kissel felt the proposed home-based business directory could serve either an enforcement or a promotional purpose.

“I do believe this is a two-fold thing,” she said. “I think if I am looking for something in my area, I can go online and I can see, ‘Hey, my neighbor does this. That’s great.’ I think using what we already have, and just building on it – we don’t need a web page for it – [is] a great idea.

“I also think if it is listed, and if I am a home owner and interested in finding out: is the business next door to me compliant? I can do that first without ever phoning the County.”

Division 7 Coun. Al Schule said he did not feel the RVC should be directly involved with such a directory at all if business promotion was the goal. He argued that the scope falls more under the realm of a local chamber of commerce.

“What I would like to see, instead of us doing that, I’d rather see us working with our chambers (of commerce) to try to let them do the advertising,” he stated. “I am not sure why we are dabbling into that.”

Division 4 Coun. Samanntha Wright, on the other hand, felt the creation of such a promotional tool for home-based businesses in RVC would do no harm if used solely for that purpose.

“Chambers are great, if you have one,” Wright said in response to Schule’s suggestion. “So Langdon and Bragg Creek are crossed off, and Balzac. But what about the rest of the county?”

Division 2 Coun. and Governance Committee chair Don Kochan asked County staff if such a directory would help them with either that enforcement or promotional piece.

Community Services executive director Matt Boscariol responded it couldn’t hurt, but felt his staff were already moving in a direction where it would be implementing new technologies to comprehensively map where home-based businesses are in the County for development permit and licensing purposes.

He also suggested private sector tools like “Grow with Google” could also be used to fashion such a directory for promotional purposes, if the council so desired.

“We can incorporate a lot of this into the technologies we are already exploring,” he explained. “This (council motion) would obviously allow us to keep it on the books and prioritize this.”

Division 5 Coun. Greg Boehlke felt the whole home-based business directory thing would be a waste of staff’s time.

“We are going to have more employees doing something nobody has asked for, and I don’t really see the value in this whatsoever,” he proclaimed.

In the end, Count. Hanson put the motion on the table that the administration be directed to present to the council a Home-based Business Directory communications and implementation strategy no later than June 30 this year, based on the guidelines discussed at the March 7 Governance Committee meeting.

Hanson’s motion passed by a vote of 4-3, with Counts. Schule, Kochan, and Boehlke opposed.