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City may target home-based businesses

The Evanston City Council Monday is scheduled to consider whether small, home-based businesses with no employees should be required to pay a fee and register with the city.

The city currently bars certain types of businesses — including barbershops and medical clinics — from operating out of homes.

It requires permits for what it calls "major" home-based businesses — ones that have non-resident employees and more than six on-site client visits per day.

But "minor" home-based businesses — ones with no non-resident employees and few on-site client visits — are not required to register or pay a fee.

Examples of the home-based businesses that now can operate without registering include attorneys, therapists, telephone sales personnel and dressmakers.

A staff memo explains the difference by saying that historically minor home occupations have had a low impact on surrounding residents.

Expanding regulation of home-based businesses has been a goal of Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who has argued that all businesses should be licensed and that the fee would be a new revenue source for the city.

But when the issue was raised three years ago, it drew opposition from Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and others, and was ultimately removed from a package of license fee increases.

And when the issue more recently was referred to the Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission, the staff memo says, "the committee did not provide support" for amending the regulations.

The memo says that aside from landscapers and pool cleaning businesses, city staff has not received a substantial number of complaints about home-based businesses.

Neither of the suburbs that border Evanston — Skokie and Wilmette — require licensing of such home-based businesses, although city staff was able to find some communities that do, including one, Glenview, that charges a $35 annual fee.

The proposal before the council Monday would direct the Plan Commission to hold a hearing on a proposed ordinance to expand the registration requirement for home-based businesses.

Related document

Home-based business agenda item (.pdf)

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