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Spotsy proposal allows ‘small-scale retail’ in some homes

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Spotsylvania County may make it a little easier for small businesses to open in converted homes.

The Planning Commission voted 6–0 this week to recommend a proposal that would allow what the county is calling “small-scale retail” on certain residential property. A would-be owner of such a business would have to apply for a special-use permit, a process that requires public hearings and approval from the Board of Supervisors.

“The exception is intended for small enterprises, which can be run out of a home without creating parking or traffic issues—the proverbial one-chair barbershop,” Supervisors Chairman Paul Trampe wrote in an email. Supervisors will have the final say on the proposal.

People who want to operate small businesses out of their homes can already apply for a special-use permit as a “home enterprise.”

But that option isn’t available to those who want to run a commercial venture from a converted home that they don’t live in. They have to submit a rezoning application, but that costs about $8,000 more than applying for a permit.

Trampe said he initiated the proposal after hearing about two people who want to open a small gift shop in a home. The current process for doing that “is too costly for a business of that size, which won’t generate that much revenue,” he said.

The proposal would only apply to homes on well-traveled arterial or connector roads such as Lafayette Boulevard and Courthouse Road. “This will keep it out of your neighborhoods,” Planning Director Wanda Parrish said at this week’s meeting.

The proposal would also be limited to homes in the Residential 1 zoning district, which is meant for low-density housing. Details such as the number of required parking spaces at the converted homes would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Planning Commission member Cristine Lynch, who was absent from the meeting, said she was on the fence about the proposal. She says she understands that residential property along major roads may eventually transition to commercial.

Still, she says she thinks those homeowners should have a reasonable expectation, at least for the foreseeable future, that a next-door home won’t become a store, which she said could potentially degrade property values and quality of life.

She noted that a section of Courthouse Road, between between Smith Station and Leavells roads, is almost all residential.

Meanwhile, Planning Commission Chairman Robert Stuber called the proposal reasonable and said it would provide jobs for the community.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402