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Home-based enterprises face uncertain rules

Mail Tribune

A flap this week over a Medford man's home-based business showed thereare no clear-cut answers to how much business you can run out of your homeor when you must relocate to a commercial area.

It's probably one of the most subjective things we deal with, becausethere's so much that people ask us if they can do as a home business ­and it's all a little different, said Mark Gallagher, Medford seniorplanner.

For Mike Lewis, owner of Arrow Seal Coat and Striping on Lone Pine Road,the good news is Medford officials will likely allow him to continue tooperate his pavement striping and sealing business with few changes.

Lewis had complained Monday that after firefighters responded to an accidentat his home, city code enforcement officers showed up a week later and toldhim to move his equipment out.

However, Gallagher said city officials only informed Lewis that the citywould work with him to comply with city regulations within 30 days ­not force him to move his business. Also, a story Tuesday incorrectly reportedthat Lewis lacks a Medford business license.

Actually, Lewis has had a business license since March 1993. At thattime, records show he also had a home occupation permit for ``phone andfiles only.

City employees who visited Lewis's home Friday told him his businessdid not comply with the city's restrictions for a home occupation permit.

Such a permit allows a business to be run from a home, but prohibitsmany routine business activities allowed within commercial areas.

Among the restrictions:

Any activity on the premises must be conducted entirely within the dwellingor accessory buildings.

Only employees residing at the dwelling are allowed to conduct activitythere.

The outward residential appearance of the building must be preserved.

No more than 15 percent of the floor area may be used for the business.

Goods held for sale in the ordinary course of business shall not be deliveredto the residence.

No inventory of flammable liquids, fireworks, explosives or any hazardousmaterials used by the business may be stored on site.

Gallagher said city employees only said they would work with Lewis overthe next 30 days to resolve the compliance problems.

The presence of flammable things (paints or sealants) are probablythe only things we're still concerned with, Gallagher said.

Lewis disputed that, saying he was told to move his business within 30days.

Lewis has a truck and two trailers on which he hauls his paint-stripingmachine and other equipment and supplies. Gallagher said a paint-stripingmachine on a trailer probably wouldn't present a problem, but the home businessordinance isn't specific on the number or kind of vehicles and other equipmentallowed at a business.

For sure, we let people take their work vehicles home, if say it'sa pickup truck with their business name on it, Gallagher said. Beyondthat, we start looking at just how much is there. Part of the way we judgehow much stuff they have is by neighbors' complaints.

And the standards shift from neighborhood to neighborhood, because whatsome neighbors would consider an eyesore may go unnoticed in more tolerantneighborhoods.

The number of home businesses in Medford may top more than 1,000. A preliminarycomputer check by the city Tuesday indicated that of the roughly 6,000 businesslicenses issued, about 18 percent go to home businesses.

Despite the large number of home businesses, Gallagher said he couldrecall only one case in which a home business was forced to relocate. Thecity took action after repeated complaints by neighbors that a tow-truckoperator was bringing home numerous vehicles each night, he said.