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Home-salon owner unhappy she’s not allowed to identify her business

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on December 7, 2013

A home-based business owner in St.  John’s is unhappy she’s not allowed to have a sign advertising her esthetics salon, but a city councillor says he thinks it should be a restriction on all home businesses.

At Monday’s regular council meeting, St. John’s city council approved an application from Tina Kavanagh of Newfoundland Drive, who applied for permission to operate the salon at her home.

But given two submissions from neighbours with concerns about the effect of the business and signage on traffic, parking and property values, council decided Kavanagh couldn’t have a sign outside her home identifying the business.

Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen said at Monday’s meeting that the city is seeing a growing number of applications for home-based businesses, and other such operations in the area don’t seem to have had much effect on parking or traffic.

But he noted both objections to the application mentioned signage, and suggested the prohibition of a sign outside.

“I think, for most home occupations in residential areas, I don’t think we should have signage allowed on those properties,” he said.

There was no more discussion of the restriction at the meeting, and the application was approved with the restriction in place.

But Kavanagh says the prohibition — which she says she’ll comply with — will hurt her appointment-based business, where she provides services like facial peels, acne treatment and makeup.

Her plan was to mount a sign identifying her Elegant Touch salon on her front deck.

“It wouldn’t be a heavy traffic business anyway,” she said, noting that she sees one client at a time for up to two hours at a stretch. The sign would have helped current — and future — clients know she’s there.

“I’m surviving now, but a sign would have been nice. … so that people can find it easy.”

Kavanagh said she doesn’t understand the logic behind council’s decision.

“It’s a sin to say it, but the decisions made here are up and down like a toilet seat,” she said.

“The city, they create their own havoc. Instead of saying, ‘Listen, you can have a small sign,’ they’ll just say, ‘OK, no sign.’ It’s cut and dried with them. ‘No sign!’ They don’t see outside the box.”

One of Kavanagh’s neighbours who submitted concerns to the city was happy with the sign restriction.

“We live on a very busy intersection, where all of the traffic goes down to Macdonald Drive Junior High,” said the neighbour, who asked not to be identified.

“If you’re here at anywhere between eight and nine in the morning, at noontime, or three o’clock, this is backlogged. … If you’ve got people parking right there, and if you’ve got people parking in front of our house here, then these people don’t see the crosswalk. We’ve already had two kids knocked down. We had an adult knocked down year before last, in the evening. We had a young fellow taken out of his sneakers a couple years ago, which is why the crosswalk was put there in the first place.”

If Kavanagh has an established clientele through word of mouth, she won’t need a sign, said the neighbour.

“Then it doesn’t devalue property, because if we went to sell it, someone doesn’t necessarily know there’s a home-based business next door.”

On Thursday, Breen said the sign restriction is one city council has imposed on other home-based businesses in the past.

“With home-based businesses, they’re treated a little bit differently, because you are in a residential area and there is some concern amongst neighbours that when you put signage out, you then really introduce the commercial aspect of that,” he said.

“You don’t want to have these and end up with signs all over the place.”

Breen said with the rising cost of office space and rent, he expects to see the number of home-based businesses continue to rise.

“You have to find a balance between home-based businesses and maintaining the residential integrity of the neighbourhood,” he said.

“I don’t think it has a significant impact on the business — in this particular case, it’s a business that’s by appointment. … If you’re going to have a business that requires signage and is going to be taking customers on a general basis, then it’s probably more conducive to a commercial area.”

Breen said given his expectation the city will see more home-business applications, he’s already directed city staff to review city policies on them.

“I get very, very few complaints about any of their operations, because they are low-impact operations.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel