Make it simple to certify a home business

Dog-walking. Soap-making. Tax prep. Graphic design. What could these possibly have in common?

They are all local home businesses. They are sprouting up everywhere, and there is a simple way to encourage them while also regulating them. Zoning is important but should not be prohibitive.

We’re living in the Age of the Internet when entrepreneurs with good ideas and gumption can get the word out electronically on what they have to offer, and provide that service without ever leaving their homes. Or they can organize the business from home — say, dog-walking and pet-sitting or house-cleaning and care-giving — and then travel to the place their services are needed.

Home businesses are great for parents who want to be with their children while still earning a living. At the other end of the age spectrum, they can be good for retirees who want to supplement their income without entering the daily fray of the workaday world.

Seven years ago, the town of Guilderland came up with a category for its zoning code — Minor Home Occupation — that would make it simple for residents to be allowed to work from home. Prior to the new classification, home businesses in a residential zone had to apply for and be granted a special-use permit.

This can be an arduous process. For example, we’ve been covering for a year-and-a-half now the process Cynthia Elliott has gone through after applying for a special-use permit in the town of New Scotland. She wants to run a business hosting events like weddings 15 times a year on the property where she lives, which is zoned residential-agricultural. She has spent thousands of dollars meeting requirements for various studies.

We understand and endorse the need for zoning. Good zoning protects not just property values but quality of life. People living in a residential neighborhood, for instance, don’t want to put up with the noise and traffic of a business in their midst. Proper zoning also protects public health. If a business, for…

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