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Why are small businesses not welcome in Chatham County?

By Monnda Welch
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - Recently, my studio and jewelry school was visited by the Chatham County Zoning Officer. When he arrived in my home driveway, he had in his hand, the printed out ad that I had placed recently on on-line. He told me that the zoning dept, monitors the local on-line lists for businesses offering services in Chatham County. One of these is of course, Craigslist.

I was told to close down my jewelry school, right now. Out of business until I get the proper permits.

Let me tell you a little about my "school". Generally have no more than two or three students at a time, for 2.5 hours in the mornings, either on Wednesday or Thursday mornings or on Wednesday or Thursday evenings. So may be I have six students a month, sometimes a lot less, but very seldom more than that. So, in a normal month, out of the ten hours a week open to students, there might be two on Wednesday morning for 2.5 hours, two on Thursday morning for 2.5 hours, one on Wednesday night and one on Thursday night, for 2.5 hours each.

I have no sign saying that it is a jewelry studio. I have no employees. As you can tell, there is not a lot of income that comes in from this. And I have no retail sales. I do not sell my product, from my studio. For that I go to shows, use galleries or my internet sites. In short, my address is not listed on any of my ads. You have to contact me if you want to take a class. My telephone number is not listed. And have it mentioned that not a lot of people are buying my product at this time anyway. What I make, people don't need when money is tight. And I don't sell it from here, as I said. I do not have gold, diamonds, and lots of expensive material here. And most people just do not understand that. Which is why a jewelry studio is usually never open to the public.

I presume, that the zoning office checks to see if you have a business permit. If not, you get a visit from the zoning officer.

Okay, so you say, why didn't you have a permit? Well, here is what the permit says, which I checked out before it stated teaching in the studio.

Below is a direct quote from the Chatham County Planning Department website and brochure from the Chatham County Home Occupation Permits.

"What is a home occupation? A home occupation is a secondary, subordinate, or accessory use to property for someone who lives on the property and has their own business.

There are two(2) types of home occupation permits. The Neighborhood Home Occupation is for businesses such as artist, landscape architects, tutors, music teaching, etc.. This type of permit is generally found in neighborhoods and subdivisions with small lots. Rural Home Occupations are for businesses such as well drilling, landscape maintenance, plumbing and HVAC contractors, small automobile repair, etc. and can be located on two (2) acres and larger. Permits must be issued before the start of any such business on a property. You may also need to contact other departments for approvals such as environmental Health, Building Inspections, and the Fire Marshal's Office. Home occupations that have no non-resident employees, no signs or other on-site advertising, and no on-site sales do no (this is not a typo-it really does state no ) require a home occupation permit. Any owner/occupant wanting to conduct a home occupation within or on the property of their residence, shall apply for a home occupation permit."

Now if you have hung in there are read that entire thing, you might see why I thought that I did not need a permit. Please check out the last two sentences from the above quote. Sound a little confusing?

So why have I brought this to your attention?

Well, for a number of reasons:

I would like to know who else has been visited by the zoning officer, with or without their printed ads, in hand.

If visited, were their businesses closed down, right then and there?

If you were visited, please contact me off the Chatlist.

The results of all this, is that I have been declared a commercial business and must have an ADA bathroom and handicap parking pad. Can you read big money for these things?

Now look, before I get a lot of mail from folks who needs these facilities, I am not anti-ADA. I am a small business, and that big money that I mentioned above is really big. About four times what teaching brings in after expenses.

I have been trying for years to locate, returning disabled war Vets, who may need to learn a new skill or just to get their minds off of things, to give them free classes. VA in Durham does not seem to be interested in this.

And this process is not quick. You have to draw up plans, get permits, get the work done, be inspected, and on and on.

And so, out there in Chatham land, if there are any insight, please let me know. I'm in the process of doing all of the above, but like I said, it takes time. Remember that old saying, "Time equals money." And I'm on the paying end of that quote.

p.s. The Big Brother watching part of this whole thing is interesting also.

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Why are small businesses not welcome in Chatham County?
Why are small businesses not welcome in Chatham County?

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