Expanding Richmond’s at-home business rules a ‘slippery slope:’ Mayor

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says expanding at-home business rules would set the city on a “slippery slope.”

Brodie was commenting on Coun. Kelly Greene’s motion to look at the feasibility of expanding at-home business use, particularly for those working in the personal service sector such as registered massage therapists or nail estheticians.

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The motion was on the agenda for Monday’s general purposes committee meeting.

“I just want to make sure that we’re doing the best we can for our residents…to help make sure that we’re not creating more crises for people who are trying to put food on the table,” Greene told the Richmond News last week.  

However, the motion would not be a simple referral, Brodie said Monday.

“I think this is a referral that goes to the very heart of how we organize the city, and that goes right to the Official Community Plan that contemplates neighbourhoods for people and commercial areas for businesses,” he said.

“What you’re doing is compromising the whole organization, of how we organize our city… I think that you are on a very slippery slope. Once you open up this door, you will never shut it.”

He said he believes Richmond has been organized “in a particular way, and that’s the way it should stay.”

Brodie also cited council’s discussions around AirBnB’s, saying two of the biggest concerns there were the impact of the short-term rentals on neighbourhoods as well as the impact on housing.

“Now, if I have a secondary suite downstairs or somewhere in my house, what a perfect opportunity that would be for me as a registered massage therapist to set up my business down there,” he said.

There would also be a risk people wouldn’t want to find a commercial premises if their business grew, Brodie added, instead staying in the secondary suite, and that people “don’t want business people coming into their neighbourhoods.”

Coun. Carol Day argued the province is encouraging people to seek out new ways of doing business amid COVID-19.

“If we’re really old-fashioned in Richmond, that’s not good. We want to be on the leading edge, not be archaic in our bylaws. And this is simply a referral to look at it,” she said, adding while many cottage industries in Richmond turn into larger businesses later on, they need a helping hand to get started.

“If you can’t afford to a million-dollar business, you can’t operate in Richmond.”

The motion was intended for small proprietorships, said Greene, which are having difficulty keeping afloat during the pandemic.

Many of those are owned by women, she said, making the issue one of gender-equity – that women “are able to be at home and be able to feed their families.”

The motion could also capture lawyers, for example, so that they would be allowed to meet with clients at home.

The motion was defeated, with Brodie, along with Couns. Chak Au, Alexa Loo, Bill McNulty and Linda McPhail voting against it.

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