Home Occupation Regulations



Information about Environmental Regulations Applicable to Home Occupations



Messrs.  Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, Shepherd, Brooks, and Ms. McCulley





March 4, 2009


ACTION:               INFORMATION: 



  ACTION:             INFORMATION:  X







On December 3, 2008, the Board directed staff to provide information on the environmental regulations applicable to home occupations and the inspections conducted to ensure compliance with applicable regulations.


Historically known as cottage industries, home occupations in Albemarle County are increasing in number as more people choose to work part-time or full-time from their homes.  In Albemarle County, home occupations fall into two categories: Class A and Class B.  Class A Home Occupations are defined as an occupation conducted for profit in a dwelling unit for which no person other than members of the family residing on the premises may be engaged in the occupation.  Class B Home Occupations may be more intensive because, although like Class A Home Occupations they are conducted for profit in a dwelling unit and a person and his family members residing on the premises may be engaged in the occupation, Class B Home Occupations may also use accessory structures and employ up to 2 persons who are not family members. 


Class A Home Occupations are approved administratively and are the more common of the two classifications.  Over the past five (5) years, Zoning and Current Development has received a yearly average of 337 applications for Class A Home Occupations.  Class B Home Occupations require a special use permit issued by the Board of Supervisors and typically less than four (4) applications are made a year.


(See Attachments A and B for the Zoning Regulations and Application.)



Protect the County’s Natural, Scenic and Historic Resources



All home occupations are subject to the performance standards delineated in Zoning Ordinance § 4.14. (Attachment C)  These standards pertain to use impacts such as noise, vibration, air and water pollution, radioactivity and electrical interference.  If the home occupation involves a use with physical procedures, machinery and/or operations that might create impacts regulated under Zoning Ordinance § 4.14, the applicant is required to address the performance standards. 


For most home occupations, a letter from the applicant demonstrating compliance with the performance standards in Zoning Ordinance § 4.14 is sufficient to allow the county engineer to efficiently and inexpensively confirm compliance with the performance standards.  As part of his review, the county engineer assures that the applicant has provided all relevant information to allow him to determine compliance.  In any given case, particularly those home occupations that may cause discharges into the environment, the county engineer may require that the applicant submit a full certified engineer’s report. (Attachment D)  A full certified engineer’s report must address the performance standards, list all machines, processes, products and by-products, state the nature and expected levels of emissions or discharges to land, air and/or water, or liquid, solid or gaseous effluent and electrical impulses and noise under normal operations.  The report must also specify treatment methods and mechanisms to be used to control the emissions or discharges.  (See Attachment D for engineer’s report standards.)


Because of the high number of applications and the limited external impacts arising from the typical home occupation, Class A Home Occupations sites are not inspected prior to approval. Class B Home Occupation sites are routinely inspected as part of the special use permit review process.     


Most discharges of solids, liquids and gases into the environment are regulated by the State, rather than by the County.  With respect to solid and liquid discharges, septic systems are designed for domestic wastewater only.  If a home occupation involves waste other than domestic wastewater, a means of disposal other than a septic system would be required.  An applicant would have to address these discharges in an engineer’s report and the County’s approval of the home occupation would be conditioned upon an approved plan for disposing of the waste.  Any unusual environmental issues for a Class B Home Occupation can be addressed by conditions of the special use permit.



Changing the procedure to require an inspection prior to home occupation approval would result in a staffing impact. At the current number of home occupation applications (average of 337 a year), this would involve almost 0.5 FTE.  Increasing the process or regulation of home occupations will also increase staffing impacts. 



Staff recommends that we continue our current approach to reviewing proposed home occupations’ compliance with the performance standards delineated in Zoning Ordinance § 4.14.  There are several aspects of the regulation of home occupations that warrant review, including the range and scope in the Rural Areas and the accommodation of live-work units in the Development Areas.  These will be addressed comprehensively with a future zoning text amendment.




Attachment A:  Home Occupation Zoning Regulations

Attachment B:  Home Occupation Class A Application

Attachment C:  Performance Standard Zoning Regulations

Attachment D:  Certified Engineer’s Report Standards

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