‘Our house was under surveillance, literally, from a single neighbour,’ says owner

Art teacher Ekaterina Ivanov lost her home business permit earlier this year when her neighbours complained to the City about increased traffic to their cul-de-sac.

There are approximately 5,000 Calgary homeowners currently running various sorts of businesses from their homes, according to the City of Calgary.

However, when asked about the frequency of neighbour complaints, and what part these concerns play in the refusal of business permits, the City says only that refusals happen “regularly.”

Neighbour concerns over traffic and noise associated with home-based businesses are taken seriously by the Calgary Development Authority and the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.

Photo by Jessica RyanDespite the City’s reserve, a public record of some of these conflicts does exist.

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board hears cases for and against permits from applicants and their neighbours, known as the “affected parties.”

The board judges whether the city development authority correctly interpreted city bylaws when deciding to grant or deny various permits.

The appeal process itself proved frustrating for appellant Valentin Ivanov, whose wife taught small art classes from their home, based on a one year permit.

The Ivanovs secured what’s known as a Home Occupation—Class 2 permit in 2011, which allowed them to host three classes of five students a week. Last September, they were shocked to learn that their permit would not be renewed.

Unbeknownst to them, neighbours had complained to the City about the increased traffic to the cul-de-sac.

“Our house was under surveillance, literally,” Valentin says, adding that he and his wife did not immigrate to Canada 22 years ago, thinking they would endure the same personal scrutiny as in his native communist Bulgaria.

Quick facts about Home Occupation – Class Two permits:

  • The business cannot be visible from the outside.
  • The business cannot generate traffic to and from the home that is not characteristic of the neighbourhood.
  • In addition to the motor vehicle parking stalls required for the Dwelling Unit, a minimum of one additional parking stall is required for the business. The business cannot occupy any portion of the required motor vehicle parking stalls.
  • Must not generate more than five business associated vehicle visits to the parcel on any one day, to a maximum of 15 business associated vehicle visits per week.
  • No form of advertising related to the business is allowed on the site.
  • The address of the home occupation cannot be advertised to the public.

Despite the complaints, Ivanov was encouraged to apply for a renewal of the permit, which was subsequently denied.

“I paid something like $400 for an application that was already doomed to be refused,” he says.

The Ivanovs appealed the decision, hoping to convince the appeal board that a compromise could be reached. Despite volunteering to limit the classes to two per week for children (who would be dropped off by parents, rather than adult students who would require parking), the appeal was denied.

“How can you explain to the kids that they’re not allowed to paint?” asks Valentin. “We are basically left with no options but to close the classes.”

In written reasons for the decision, the appeal board says that having children dropped off and picked up actually increases traffic: counting the drop off and pick up trips as separate visits pushed the Ivanov’s traffic count over the 15-per-week limit.

The board suggested the Ivanovs rent space in a community hall or church. Valentin says they have looked into this option, but rental prices are too high in the city.

Ekaterina Ivanov says, “Basically, I would have to pay in order to have my students.”

She teaches large adult classes at Swinton’s Art Supply, but the small number of younger students makes renting this commercial space for their lessons unfeasible.

The Ivanovs maintain that before their permit was not renewed, they were never approached by the neighbours or the City about issues with traffic and parking.

The neighbours who made the complaints declined to comment.

jryan@cjournal.ca

Read more about the conflict with Ivanov’s home art classes here.