‘Our house was under surveillance, literally, from a single neighbour,’ says owner
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.”
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:
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.
Read more about the conflict with Ivanov’s home art classes here.