Tuesday, September 1, 2015

But What About The Empty Store Fronts?

Why should we support Home Based Businesses when he have so many empty store fronts in town?  This has been a question that has been kicking around town hall for quite some time now.  I heard it myself within those walls and I heard it outside of those walls.  This question lurks under the surface of so many of the decisions that have been made by council.

We have a land use bylaw that permits home based businesses that have been deemed to not be in conflict with a residential neighbourhood.  It even permits appropriate signage and the sale of goods made on the premises.  But, bylaw amendments have been made over the past few years that have all but cancelled out the good intentions of our land use bylaw.  In 2012 The parking regulations were changed from needing smaller sized parking spaces that could be in a single driveway to needing 3 full size 10x20ft. parking spaces that must be accessed independently.  Apparently, this amendment was an oversight, but having now witnessed how many meetings it takes to amend a bylaw, I just can't see how an oversight is possible.  Another change happened in 2012.  Previously, if you wanted to build an accessory building on your property it could be 750 sq. ft.  That number was reduced to 400 sq. ft.  I believe this is the outside footprint, so now take away the walls and you have around 300 sq. ft. Put in the unnecessary public washroom and you have 250 sq. ft.  What sort of business can you run in a space that small?

Perhaps there was some logical rationale for these changes, but I can't help but think that it has something to do with the belief that we should not be supporting home based businesses.  That businesses like mine are in conflict with the commercial zone.

When a town supports, and when I say support I don't mean turns a blind eye to the many home based businesses in town that are operating in non compliance, I mean truly supports and encourages these businesses, what is it that they are supporting?  They are supporting parents of young children being able to work and be there for their family.  They are supporting grown children being able to care for elderly parents.  They are supporting individuals that may need to care for a disabled loved one.  They are supporting new immigrants, young families and artists that often do not have the means to afford the overhead of a commercial store front.  They are supporting the incubation and growth of small business.  Remember that guy, Steve Jobs, who started a business in his garage?  If government nurtures and supports these micro businesses by way of policy, it is inevitable that some of these businesses will eventually have outgrown their homes and then fill up some of those empty store fronts.  They are also supporting the disabled.  There has been so much talk about accessibility in relationship to my tiny home based business, but has anyone stopped to consider that disabled people are often prevented from taking jobs because of a lack of accessibility in the work place?  Could it be that Lunenburg's present interpretation of an existing rule would actually prevent someone with a disability from earning a living?

Here's a comment on facebook in regards to the last post about Mariko.  "This is a great article .... I certainly know that there is absolutely no way my uncle Earl Bailly could have survived in this type of atmosphere in terms of selling his paintings and reproductions ... thousands of visitors came into our little house on Pelham Street ... no steel doors, no public washroom, no parking except on the street - it was accessible though!"  Earl Bailly was a famous Lunenburg painter who was in a wheel chair.  His home was accessible because he was in a wheel chair, but if we choose (and in this case it is a choice because the actual rule does not require a home to be accessible and home based businesses are still part of the home)   to put those rules on the tiniest of our businesses, that support so many people, support immigration and growth then we are working against our own prosperity.

Lastly, Home based businesses support the commercial businesses.  Yes, you heard that right.  When someone comes to visit me or someone like Mariko they are often coming from far away.  They often ask me for a restaurant recommendation.   Usually, I just pick up the phone and make the reservation for them.   I always pull out The Lunenburg Guide and suggest they don't leave town before visiting Ironworks, check out our incredible locally roasted coffee at Laughing Whale  , and visit Nova Terra Cotta Pottery.  I also tell them about our fabulous Lunenburg Walking Tour.   It works both ways.  Many of these same businesses and others that I haven't mentioned go out of their way to tell their customers about the milliner working in her little studio.  This spirit of generosity makes Lunenburg a beautiful place to visit and live.  But, we need to dispel this outdated notion that the businesses are in competition with each other.  Many of us already understand what has been emphasized in the Ivany Report.  It is not about guarding your small piece of pie.  It is about working together to make the pie bigger.

Here are some wonderful photos of Earl Bailly working from his home based business.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let's Talk about Mariko - How Lunenburg Lost an Incredible Artist

"...there are too many leaders and decision makers in key locations that have not yet signaled their understanding of the need for fundamental change.  They do not yet share a vision of a finished edifice or an understanding of how they can contribute to its construction."  The Ivany Report

Let's talk about Mariko.  Mariko Paterson is what anyone would call a world class artist.  Here's her web site-  www.foragestudios.com

Out of anywhere in the world, she chose to move from British Columbia to beautiful Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  She bought a home in the old town with a small heritage accessory building, where she could have her pottery studio.  Now, if I was a leader in Lunenburg and I had learned that such a person was moving to our town, I would hitch up the welcome wagon, load it up with the welcoming committee and pay Mariko a visit.  I would ask her if there was anything the town could do to help her in establishing her business in Lunenburg.  As a leader, I would be so excited for the future tourists that such an artist would bring to the area and I would be hopeful that her choice would inspire other artists of similar caliber to follow suit.  I'd make sure to then shout it from the roof tops that Lunenburg is the place to come and set up your craft business.

Sadly, though, instead of the welcoming committee, Mariko was greeted by our Building Inspector, who told her that if she wanted any visitors in her studio, she would need to have fire separation, wheelchair access and a handicapped washroom in the studio.  The town would have wanted 3 car parking.   I don't know the exact square footage of that accessory building, but I'm going to estimate it at 200 sq. ft.  She would have to choose between a kiln or a toilet.  There was no way that Mariko could make these costly renovations, so the building inspector told her to send him an e-mail promising to not run a business in her shop.  Can we say, "overstepping your jurisdiction?"  Mariko, who had already purchased her home, sent the e-mail.  How would she know that the building inspector had no business asking her to do such a thing?

So, Mariko did what most artists in Lunenburg do, she became a part of our thriving underground economy.  She made her art, sold online, sold at craft shows and when the occasional customer tried to find her, she hoped that her sign to the UPS guy, "please bring deliveries to out building" would be enough for the customers to know where she was.

I was so amazed by Mariko.  When she moved to Lunenburg, it seemed that her first question was, How can I help?  She established  the Lunenburg Community Bulletin Board on Facebook, which continues to be a great tool for our town.  With Karen Lewis, she established the Lunenburg Dog Park.  She also donated her graphic design skills to The Lunenburg Festival of Crafts and made them a spiffy new logo.  People like Mariko don't come around often.

After a couple of years in Lunenburg, Mariko became pretty dismayed with the lack of vision and hospitality in our town.  Every little change she tried to make was met with resistance.  With the love of her life living in Halifax and knowing that Halifax does not harass their artists, moving to the big city was a pretty easy decision.   No councilor from our town stopped by her place and inquired as to why she was leaving Lunenburg.  I'll leave you with one more photo. I don't know what she calls it, but I call it,
'The Lunenburg Welcoming Committee'

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How To Discourage Entrepreneurs in Lunenburg

Our challenges…are imbedded in the very structure of the economy after decades of weak private sector growth and perhaps an over reliance on government….they are amplified by our lack of confidence and collective ambition to do better, and in our attitudes of mistrust and indifference with regard to the success of our entrerepreneurs.
-The Ivany Report
"Attitudes of mistrust and indifference with regard to the success of our entrepreneurs."  Those words ring so true as I witness the struggles that entrepreneurs face in Lunenburg and throughout Nova Scotia.  We as entrepreneurs are responding to the rallying cry of the Ivany Report.  Now or Never!   We have come here from other provinces, we are starting businesses, we have brought our children.  

Nova Scotia is filled with entrepreneurs facing challenges alone. The town does not help them overcome obstacles.  They place the obstacles in their way. Just for the record- Our building official classified Brad's shop as Light Industrial.  In a residential zone.  One cannot have a light industrial shop in a residential zone.  That is called a conflict of zoning.  Woodworking shops are permitted in the residential zones as Home Occupations in our land use bylaw.   The town puts their hands over their ears.  

The following letter is from Brad Quarrie, a young man that moved to Lunenburg from Ontario a few years back.  He moved with his lovely wife, Micheline and their three daughters. They have been beautifully restoring a heritage home.  These are the people we want in Lunenburg.  They care and invest in the town.  Yet, our local government could care less whether Brad succeeds or fails.  What a disgrace. 
Has anyone from the Town of Lunenburg ever reached out to Brad and his family to try to help them move forward?  The town is unconcerned.  

-Brad's Letter:
The Dream Remains a Dream

When my wife and I came to the south shore looking for a home, we looked at a number of houses, all with outbuildings. The plan was always to have a shop next to the house, I always have. So when we saw the house we live in now and it had a 1350 square foot outbuilding, it was pretty much a done deal. As far back as the story of 75 Dufferin Streetgoes, a carpenter lived there and had a shop on the premises. Could it be more perfect? Well no, not for the first few years.

Everyone knows that buying and owning an old house means a never ending to-do list of upgrades and maintenance. Our house is no exception, and the list is so long I won't even begin to get into it here. The point however, is that to restore an old house, one requires a shop, and I have one, it's in my coach house. I imagine there are more sheds, garages, and coach houses in this town with a workshop, than those without. This is after all a town of carpenters and crafts people, handy people, skilled people, people who love to work with their hands. This is what drew us to Lunenburg, that and the old houses.

As it turns out, like so many other home occupations, having a shop isn't the problem, it's using that shop for 10% of time for work. As a carpenter the majority of my work is done at the location of the house being restored or built, but occasionally there is a bit of work that requires stationery shop tools. So the question is, why wouldn't I use the shop and tools I already have to do that minimal amount of work, while also utilizing an existing historic structure?

As I have stated, my personal shop resides in my outbuilding, and has since the day we moved into our house. But, to do 'paying' work in there from time-to-time, I would be required to fireproof a wall, fireproof the floor, provide fire separation from the rest of the building (which is not living space), include a self-closing fire door, install an additional exterior door, an air filtration system, dust collection system and possibly (?) a bathroom. Also, the roof would have to be re-engineered to remove a beam that has been deemed a hazard due to its height. So in order to work in my coach house 20-30 days of the year, I would be required to make $35-40K in upgrades. Oddly, the soundproofing I'd planned for the space was not even mentioned. This is the point where it no longer made sense to proceed. A month of work is about $5K, a decent amount of money when you have three children, but not if all that income will go towards paying for renovations for the next 7-10 years.

So, What does one do with 1350 S.F. of space if not a business? I'm open to suggestions because we have five bicycles, a collection of garden tools, and some beach toys for the kids, leaving about 1200 S.F. of extra space.

It's been almost six years since we moved to Lunenburg, and for the time being, our Nova Scotia dream will remain just that, a dream.

Brad Quarrie,
Restoration Specialist


Friday, August 14, 2015

Mayor Bailey Votes Against Parking Changes

Here's a screen shot of the council minutes from August 11th.
There was one vote against accepting the recommendations to remove the parking requirements for Home Based Businesses and that was from Mayor Bailey.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Looking Forward to Saying, Welcome

About a week ago I received the following letter from this lady in Toronto.  Her name is Alissa
What an amazing addition to our community she could be.  As it stands, though, I can not in good conscience tell her that she should come and set up her Home Based Business in the Town of Lunenburg.

I can tell her that it's beautiful here and that the town is filled with fabulous people who are warm and welcoming, but I can not tell her that she will not run into stumbling blocks.  I can tell her that we already have a Land Use Bylaw that permits home based businesses in the residential zones, but I would also have to tell her that our Town would ask her to violate the town's own zoning bylaws and turn a portion of her home into a commercial occupancy.  Or she could choose to join the thriving underground economy of Lunenburg.  Not a great option for her or for the future of Nova Scotia.

Soon, Alissa.  We are working hard so that you can join us.

Here is one of her beautiful pieces.

And here is her letter:

Dear Anna of Lunenburg;

I am an artist trapped in a day job in Toronto.  Sad, but true.  I am dreaming of moving to a coastal community, one with arts, architecture, history, the ocean, and a supportive friendly community.  I have lived in a small town and know that it is lovely to greet people with a smile and "hello" on the sidewalk, at the grocery store and library, and about town even when you don't know them.  There is an openness and togetherness not found in bigger centres, that I do miss now having recently relocated to Toronto.

I am a potter of 20 yrs, and now also a painter. I am a planner and a goal setter, entrepreneur at heart, and want to be an artist full time (having once done so for a short time and loved it).  I know it is hard work all around (marketing, networking, traveling to shows, production, inventory, etc).  And there is no guarantee you could support yourself at your craft in the end.  I am willing to try, and am researching which town would suit my needs best, in Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg seems perfect!  A growing arts community, continued tourism, and several art associations and events in the surrounding areas. 

And here I've discovered you, a small business woman/artisan struggling with outdated by-laws and governing bodies in your town to simply earn a living doing what you love.  I would also endeavour to run a (very) small business out of my home, to pursue the dream of artist.  I hope the discord in Lunenburg can be resolved amiably with all sides coming to an agreement, making some minor changes to allow small businesses to operate from home.  It is actually beneficial for the town to make home-based business easier, as I am sure you have argued, economically.  With little disruption to the quiet neighbourhoods, you can run a small business from home, earn income, and then spend it on other businesses in town.  The more successful you are, the more is put back into the community!  It makes for a happy, healthy economic circle!  I understand that a lot of younger folks are leaving  Nova Scotia for jobs elsewhere? This is a great solution to encourage people of all ages to invest in a small town, by creating their own jobs as entrepreneurs. 

I will read up on what transpires in over the next few weeks.  I understand that you are speaking to the Province on September 16? I will be saying a silent prayer for your success.  Here's to the Rise of Artisans and Success in Entrepreneurship!

Best to you!
Yours from Ontario,
Alissa Whalen

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Ministry of Prevention Strikes Again

Two day ago I took an oath of positivity.  I vowed to only put up posts that work towards solutions.  That lasted about two days and then this happened. http://discordstudio.com/the-town-of-lunenburg-has-forced-us-to-cancel-all-remaining-music/
On this glorious, busy weekend in Lunenburg when The Folk Harbout Festival graces our town and the streets are filled with music and tourists, The town of Lunenburg decides to shut down this venue.

For the past month or so, residents and tourists alike have been delighted with the incredible music wafting out from the back of Dis.Cord Gallery on Blue Nose Drive.  Music that is free to the public and payed for by Farley Blackman who owns this building among many others in town.  This music has been a gift to the people of Lunenburg and has given several local bands a regular, well paying gig.  As any artist knows, the loss of any regular income hurts deeply.  The sound man, who just had a new baby, has now also lost a regular paying job.

The town's reason for shutting down this venue?  The gallery was told by our building inspector that they needed to have a handicapped accesible washroom.

Here's a closer look, so you can get a better perspective of the insanity behind this request.  This is a garage, with garage doors.  People walk by on the street and can choose to stop in for a moment to sit and hear some local music for FREE.  And then they move on.  It is actually one of the few venues in town that would be easily accessed to someone in a wheel chair.  Who wins from this sort of thinking?

 Farley Blackman is a man of considerable means and we in Lunenburg should thank our lucky stars that he has chosen to invest in Lunenburg.  He has purchased so many dilapidated building that would eventually fall into disrepair and he has impeccably restored them.    This is The Lunenburg Opera House.  It didn't look quite so lovely when we first moved here seven years ago. Council has not rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Blackman even though his tax bill keeps this town running.  Instead, they have rolled out the red tape.

Really, I'm sorry to bring this to you on this beautiful day, but let this be a call to action.  Get thee to our council meeting on August 11th and to as many as you can possibly stand after that.  There is a price for living in paradise and that is civic engagement.  Time to pay up.  See you on Tuesday at 5:15.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Love Lunenburg?

This past weekend a pretty ugly scene went down on Facebook.  Not that uncommon of a phenomena, I know.  I had been sharing the links to these blog posts on The Lunenburg Community Bulletin Board, against my better judgement, but feeling that the problems facing Lunenburg and Nova Scotia were something we all should know about.  Within a short while someone with an opposing view chimed in with a rant and the war got going.  The comments were horrible.  The community became divided and all this mud slinging could be viewed publicly.  I took down all my posts because I saw I had made an error.  When personal attacks start to happen, no good can come of it.  But the other rants stayed up on the page.

Then something very distressing  happened.  Someone chimed in with, You either Love Lunenburg or you don't!  And then the comments followed.  I have been here for 10 generations and I love Lunenburg!  I am a CFA (come from away) and I love Lunenburg!  It reminded me of a phenomena I witnessed in my 20 years living in the states.  As soon as someone wants change or questions authority half the country puts up flags and sports T-shirts saying, Proud to be an American!    It is a method of silencing those trying to work for progress with accusations of being anti-American  or in this case, Anti-Lunenburg.

There are many that have fallen in love with  Lunenburg for a year or three and then moved on.  They had a fling.  I came here seven years ago, fell madly in love with the place and the people and decided to get married.  As anyone who is married knows, It is hard work.  Throw a kid or a business into the relationship and things can get really colourful.  Marriage requires communication and a willingness to find solutions.  Silencing your partner with accusations of, You don't love me!, really isn't a way to grow.

Love Luneburg. But if you want it to last then it's time for openness, communication and  taking the time to do the hard work to find solutions.