Medicine Hat City Plans To Add “Remote Work” To Land-Use Bylaw

Remote work
Photo by Joseph Frank on Unsplash

According to the municipal planning commission meeting on Wednesday, remote work might soon have a legal definition in City of Medicine Hat land-use regulations.

Administrators intend to add a “remote work” category to the land-use bylaw, primarily to distinguish it from a traditional home-based business and to reduce misunderstanding over the growing trend.

“Essentially it’s an office job that’s done in a home.”

Jim Genge

He also added that while it would be included, “remote workers” would not require any fee, permit or inspection unless it took on aspects of other home-occupation permits.

It would be legal in any residential neighbourhood as long as the job was done primarily indoors, didn’t involve customer visits, and didn’t require its own company licence, implying that the property tenant is someone else’s employee.

This distinguishes it from home-based enterprises, which are regulated to minimise noise and irritation to neighbours, as well as possible parking issues.

“It’s interesting, and obviously the pandemic has brought it to the forefront.”

Andy McGrogan, Commission Member

Last year, the planning department began investigating the issue with an informal poll of home-based company owners and research on how other communities handle the matter.

Home occupation permits, which are necessary for home-based companies in Medicine Hat, are now classified into minor and major categories.

In all circumstances, the company must be owned by the property owner or occupier, no signage or walk-up sales are permitted, and consumers are only permitted to visit by appointment.

A minor permission holder can admit up to five guests every week, but a major permit holder can accept up to 35.

They are both “discretionary uses” in all residential zones, which means that the application is announced to neighbours, who have the right to protest, and they are granted at the discretion of planning officials to ensure that residential characteristics of the neighbourhood are not disrupted.

Limited occupations, such as carpentry and metalworking, are completely prohibited, while some contractor storage is permitted.

Home-based enterprises, according to Genge, are often new business endeavours that incorporate people’s interests or sidelines, and therefore cause the planning department relatively little issue in terms of complaints.

McGrogan wondered if any smaller home-based business owners would be able to get by without obtaining a home-occupation permit.

They’ll still need a business licence, according to Genge, and complaints from neighbours about parking or noise will lead to investigations.

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