Yesterday the Abilene Planning Commission heard an application by a seamstress to change the zoning regulations to allow home occupations within the High Density Residential (R-3) zoning district.  In addition, the amendment included deleting an allowable space provision for home occupations in accessory structures.  The zoning regulations contain a list of customary home occupations and includes performance standards to minimize a home occupation’s impact on the residential nature of neighborhoods.  Although these may seem like small changes, they do represent the removal of government regulations that hamper small business development.  It is commendable that the Planning Commission is doing their part to lessen the red tape to starting certain types of businesses.

I recently saw a graphic on Facebook that showed four residential garages.  The garages were identified by the name of the businesses that were born in those structures.  The companies were Apple, Disney, Google, and Hewlett Packard.  When someone has a hobby that becomes their passion (or dare I say obsession), it starts to occupy space in their homes and garages.  Most of us have those areas: the scrapbooking room, the woodworking shop, the music room, the craft room, a canning area in the basement, or mechanic shop in the garage.  We all are really into something and in some cases it may be something unique to our community.  There are some of us who enjoy our passion to the point that we bring our ingenuity into the process by finding better ways to engage in the hobby.  Some may have finely honed skill in the hobby which becomes known to others such that our work becomes appreciated and desired by others.  Unfortunately, few of us are ambitious enough to monetize our passions and take the risk necessary to derive our livelihood from it.  We like the security of being an employee, even if it’s not necessarily how we would like to spend our lives.  

Removing even basic limitations to people’s vocational creativity, makes it more likely that the entrepreneurial spirit will be kindled in someone who may otherwise just shrug their shoulders and say, “Zoning won’t allow it”.  However, it is also true that those who have the drive and determination to build a small business from scratch are likely to believe that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.  At least now some of them won’t have to ask for forgiveness from the City of Abilene.