‘Cottage industry’ ordinance approved

‘Cottage industry’ ordinance approvedBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council approved a “cottage industry” ordinance Wednesday, which would allow residents to secure permits with the county to operate home cosmetology or food businesses.

“This sounds like the city finally has a good recommendation,” said local business owner Chuck Rouland during last month’s meeting when council heard the first reading of the ordinance. Rouland has been critical of the city’s business friendliness in the past, but commended council for “trying to eliminate one more bureaucratic” roadblock to economic activity.

The ordinance is restricted to “hairdressers, barbers or other tonsorial pursuits” – professions that are regulated through the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology – and the preparation and sale of “certain low risk foods, known as Cottage Foods.”

The California Department of Public Health’s list of currently approved cottage food products includes baked goods, candy, dried foods, honeys and jams and other “non-potentially hazardous foods” (full list: ucanr.edu/sites/CESonomaAgOmbuds/Value_Add_Products/Cottage_Food_Bill/#list).

Heather Spurlock, administrative analyst for the city’s planning department, explained that the city would not itself be issuing licensing or enacting any regulations. County permits merely require an OK from the city for prospective home businesses to proceed.

“This is true across most industries,” said Spurlock. “It doesn’t add or remove any restrictions from the agencies that regulate. Right now, the only thing preventing [residents from having home businesses] is us.”

She added that the city would play an enforcement role by “double checking” that home businesses are operating within the confines of county and state regulations.

“This is not something that just anybody can do,” said Spurlock. Home businesses are not permitted to have signs, can’t use residential addresses in advertisement, must have an exclusive “business” entrance and are only allowed to operate within certain hours.

“It shouldn’t be something that interrupts the neighborhood,” she said.

Additional concerns were raised when the item re-emerged Wednesday for a second reading and approval.

Mayor Peggy Breeden said it could seem unfair to businesses that invested in a commercial operation. But Spurlock said home businesses and traditional commercial businesses were very different operations.

“People go to salons for a reason,” said Councilmember Scott Hayman. “There’s the social side, quality of care … they have that going for them. For the people who want to work on a slower basis and work out of their home – this is a good opportunity to assist them in that process.”

Councilmember Kyle Blades added that there is a reason commercial operations aren’t allowed in residential-zoned districts. But City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen said that was the reason for the restrictions in the ordinance.

“Home occupations have been around a long time,” said City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen via teleconference.

“The whole idea is that is it should not be an impact on the neighborhood. It’s the kind of businesses that typically nobody in the neighborhood would even notice. There shouldn’t be parking issues or noise issues.

“It’s as if someone is having a friend over for a cup of tea.”

Spurlock added that any home occupancy runs the risk of having its permit revoked if neighborhood complaints begin to emerge due to business operations.

There was also a question of how the city would monitor which home businesses had permits and whether or not they were operating within the ordinance.

But others pointed out that residents are likely already running small businesses from their homes and will continue to do so regardless of whether or not it is allowed.

“This is already going on right now, and it’s been going on since at least the early ’70s,” said Councilmember Mike Mower at a previous meeting.

Council approved the ordinance 4-0. Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens was absent from the meeting. For future agendas and more on City Council, see ridgecrest-ca.gov/ridgecrest-city-council.

Story First Published: 2020-09-04