Yucca Valley Inching Toward Commercializing & Industrializing Residential Zones

(June 24)  The town of Yucca Valley this week took a major stride toward the liberalization of its land use policy, with the planning commission making a recommendation that the city council alter its development code to allow greater latitude with regard to the type and nature of home-based businesses that can locate in the town’s residential zones.
Challenges made by some city residents of businesses run out of single family residences in several of the town’s neighborhoods, including at least one that involved a lawsuit, resulted in the town revisiting the issue of home occupation permit regulations earlier this year.  In some of those cases, complainants referenced violations of the town code that had been ongoing for several years.
The operators of those businesses and their supporters, including nearby residents who signed letters or petitions saying they had no objection to industrial or quasi-industrial uses in the midst of their residential neighborhoods, petitioned city officials to amend the town code, in particular Development Code Section 84 with regard to home-based businesses.
There has been some degree of back-and-forth between two differing factions in town – those advocating strict enforcement of the town code to prevent commercial or manufacturing operations in residential areas and others maintaining that commercial and light industrial activities should be deemed acceptable within the town’s rural neighborhoods.
The planning commission on June 24 made a non-binding recommendation that the city council adopt the newly drafted ordinance, which would repeal Development Code Section 84.0615 of the Town Code and amend Title 9 by adding a section and a chapter to the Yucca Valley Development Code.
The ordinance changes the language in the code from a reference to home-based business to home occupation operations. It contains language which states that such activities should “not alter the character of any residential neighborhood, or create impacts or activities that are not typically and commonly associated with residential neighborhoods.  It is the intent of this section to allow for commercial uses that are accessory and incidental to the primary purpose of residential zones homes, which is that of providing a habitable dwelling for the owner or occupant as the primary use of the residential dwelling unit.”
The ordinance would yet prohibit home occupations that entailed “animal hospitals; automotive and other vehicle repair, upholstery painting or storage; junk yards; medical and dental offices, clinics and laboratories; mini-storage; storage of equipment, materials and other accessories to the construction trades; welding and machining; cabinet shop[s]; uses which may include the storage or use of explosives or high combustible or toxic materials; sales of ammunition; [and] massage establishments.” The ordinance also disallows sales of firearms in residential zoning districts other than those designated as Rural Living or Hillside Reserve.
Planning commission chairman Tim Humphreville lobbied his colleagues to allow the sale of firearms in all residential zones.  That request was not endorsed by the full commission, however.
The ordinance identifies four classes of home occupation operations that are permitted.
Class I are those that “shall have no impact on the neighborhood in which they are located” and would include “telecommuting and internet or electronic based business or other similar activities that are transparent inside the residential structure and do not involve customers to the site, employees, or any structural alteration.”  According to the proposed ordinance, “no permit is required for home based businesses where no business activity takes place other than the scheduling of appointments or paper work, there are no customers received at the residence, the exterior of the property is not modified for the business and there is no outdoor storage of materials or vehicles. Operating hours on these Class 1 businesses are limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”
Class II home occupations, according to the ordinance, “may have a limited impact on the neighborhood in which they are located. Class II home occupations shall be allowed in the Residential Single Family, Rural Living and Rural Hillside Reserve zoning districts. Class II home occupations are subject to a field investigation by city staff and may be permitted without notice or a hearing, although the town director of development has the option of scheduling a hearing before the planning commission to establish special conditions of approval. Class II home occupations can feature sales of products on the premises, a maximum three customers or clients per day, one employee who is not a resident of the premises, and can operate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but cannot receive customers before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. No business activity is to take place at a Class II operation outside the home.
Class III home occupations are those categorized as having “a limited impact on the neighborhood in which they are located but are also slightly more intense than Class II in that they may involve outdoor storage of material and or outdoor home occupation activities that do not impact the neighborhood.  Class III operations are permitted in the Rural Living and Rural Hillside Reserve zoning districts and are subject to notice and hearing for the issuance of a permit.  The planning commission is the review authority and can forward the application to the council for consideration. Class III businesses can have sales of products on the premises. Customer may visit Class III operations only by appointment, one appointment at a time. The monthly average of the total trip count for business activity shall not exceed 12 trips per day in all zoning districts.  Class III businesses can employ up to two workers who do not live on the premises.  Operation is limited to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., with customers restricted to the hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  Class III home occupation operations located on lots one acre or larger are permitted to have outside business activity or screened outdoor storage of materials.
Class IV home occupations, according to the proposed ordinance, “may exceed the standards provided in classes I, II, and III, subject to the review and approval of a conditional use permit by the planning commission.  No alteration of the home in which a Class IV operation is taking place can be made, according to the proposed ordinance, “in such a manner as to change the residential character and appearance of the dwelling, or in such a manner as to cause the structure to be recognized as a place where a home occupation is conducted.” No limitation is specified in the proposed ordinance as to the number of employees not residing on the premises who may work in a Class IV home occupation setting. No displays, sales, or advertising signs are permitted on the premises other than “one unlighted identification sign containing the name and address of the owner attached to the building not exceeding two square feet in area per street frontage.”
The commission recommended that the home occupation permits, which currently must be renewed annually, be deemed operative for three years. The commission also recommended that any recently granted home occupation permits which contained previous conditions of approval be updated with the new conditions.

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