Caribou ordinance change is making it easier for home-based businesses

2 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Residents who wish to start a business out of their homes might find the process easier thanks to the Caribou Planning Board’s recent changes to a long-standing ordinance.

The seven-member board voted unanimously to send the revised Home Occupations Ordinance to the Caribou City Council for further review and potential approval during its meeting on Jan. 13. 

The ordinance no longer requires home-based entrepreneurs to go through a public hearing with the Planning Board if their businesses do not require additional state licenses. In those instances, the business proposals would only be subject to basic reviews from city staff.

Examples include bakeries, woodworking shops and other businesses focused primarily on selling goods and services. Businesses that require state licensing, including day cares and those that sell guns, must be approved at a public hearing.

If approved by the City Council, the new ordinance would also allow business owners to utilize 50 percent of their homes or 100 percent of an accessory building, such as an office or workshop, for conducting business. The current ordinance allows for 25 percent of a business owner’s home or 50 percent of an accessory building.

The ordinance does not apply to people who work at home as employees of businesses or companies that they do not own.

Code Enforcement Officer Ken Murchison said the ordinance revisions came about in an effort to make the application process easier for home-based business owners.

“Typically with our land use codes, we prefer one use per lot [of land],” Murchison said. “But we realize that, especially now, more people work out of their home.”

He said the revised Home Occupations Ordinance is part of a larger review of Caribou’s Chapter 13 Land Use ordinances. At the request of city councilors, the Planning Board will make changes based on promoting greater access to business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Planning Board Chairperson Dan Bagley echoed Murchison’s statements, citing the Home Occupations Ordinance’s greater ability to encourage economic development in the city’s more residential areas.

“This [ordinance] is going to make things a lot simpler for people to have a business in their home,” Bagley said.

The Caribou City Council will conduct its own public hearing for the ordinance, after which they will vote to approve or request more changes.

A full version of the revised ordinance can be found on the city of Caribou’s website.