Should Everett’s in-home businesses be given more latitude?

Under a proposal, businesses in residences could conduct in-home sales and hire up to two employees.

EVERETT — Allowing home-based businesses greater latitude — including the ability to conduct in-home sales and employ up to two people — would spur business creation and add to the city’s coffers, according to a proposal before the Everett City Council.

The proposal is endorsed by the city’s planning department and would amend zoning codes that regulate home occupations in the city. The revisions are needed to better reflect the shift toward work-from-home and home-based ventures, city officials say.

“Home occupations are a real part of our economy,” Everett’s economic development director, Dan Eernissee, told the council during last week’s remote meeting. But council members, who will get a second look at the measure on Wednesday, are concerned that those changes could add to the city’s traffic and parking woes.

The new proposal would “modestly” increase opportunities for home occupations to launch, welcome customers and pay taxes, while setting “clear limitations,” planning department officials said.

No more than two customers would be allowed in an in-home business at one time. Signs would be prohibited. Business hours would be confined to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

The planning department looked at how other cities accommodate home-based businesses and then worked closely with the city’s code enforcement team to draft changes, Eernissee said.

Benefits to the city include the formation of new businesses, local job creation and increased revenue from business licenses and applicable taxes. Benefits to residents include greater access to local goods and services, Eernissee said.

Among other changes, the proposal would lift an existing ban on in-home barber and beauty shops and client-based businesses such as in-home real estate offices.

In-home businesses would be allowed to serve up to 10 clients per day and conduct on-site retail sales — currently not allowed.

The proposal would allow home-based businesses to employ two employees who don’t live there. Now they are required to move into a commercial space when they hire their first employee, Eernissee said.

The shift would give proprietors the ability to “fine-tune” their ventures before having to move into a commercial space, Eernissee said, allowing “a more gradual ramp up to growth.”

The measure specifically bans commercial wedding and event venues, veterinary clinics, auto sales and services, adult businesses and the sale of firearms and ammunition.

The last item — a ban on home-based firearm sales— may not be legal.

If in-home retail sales are allowed, in-home retail gun sales may also be allowed under state law, a city attorney pointed out.

The prospect of home-based gun sales did not sit well with council members.

City Council President Brenda Stonecipher said it would be better to strike the retail sales clause if it means allowing firearm sales.

“I’m not sure the inclusion of retail sales is worth the requirement … to allow gun sales in a residential zone,” Stonecipher said.

Council member Paul Roberts said, “The broader question is whether or not retail sales is something we want to allow in residential zones.”

Other council members, including Scott Murphy, said they might support “incidental sales” such hair products by a home-based stylist or barber.

During the public comment period, Greg Lineberry, who is running for council District 2, said he was approached last year by a hair stylist concerned about working in a busy salon during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She wanted to install a small work area in her home, but unfortunately municipal code prevented this type of home business,” Lineberry said.

The City Council will get a second look at the proposal Wednesday. A vote on the measure is expected Sept. 1.

To attend this week’s virtual meeting of the Everett City Council, go to everettwa.gov/citycouncil. To view the proposal in full, go to bit.ly/3D9QcuY.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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