“By making an example out of me, a hardworking parent who could potentially not be able to provide for and contribute to my family’s budget, you’re also making an example out of Halifax,” LuLaRoe retailer Erin Shaughnessy told Halifax Town Council members after more than a dozen individuals asked council to reconsider her special use permit during their meeting Tuesday.
She has been selling LuLaRoe online for four years now “to be 100 percent present” for her family, and she moved to 615 Mountain Road this year for proximity and simplicity after residing in the county.
Her permit to operate as a clothing seller was denied in June during a joint meeting and public hearing with the Halifax Planning Commission and Halifax Town Council after commission chair Ron Reiter said because the business is “in violation of the current ordinance, I see nothing we can do but recommend denial.”
After her permit was denied, council tasked the commission and Carl Espy, town manager and zoning administrator, with reviewing the current definition of “home occupation” in R-1 residential zoning for possible amendments.
Since then Reiter and Espy have researched the ordinances of 12 localities, including the town of South Boston.
At the commission’s August meeting, Reiter made a motion to recommend to council that no amendments or modifications be made to the current definition of home occupation. Commissioner Paul Butler seconded the motion that passed unanimously.
Commissioners Sylvia Lovelace and Kathy Bane were absent from the August meeting.
Because the commission recommended denial, no action was required by Halifax Town Council when they met Tuesday.
The current definition of home occupation says a business could be allowed if “no person not a resident on the premises is employed, no stock is kept or commodities sold, no mechanical equipment is used except such that is normally used for purely domestic or household purposes, no advertising sign is displayed, and there is no exterior evidence that the building is being used for any purpose other than a dwelling, and there is no motor vehicle regularly operated from the premises that carries advertising.”
Espy explained on Wednesday that Shaughnessy is in violation of the current ordinance because of her stock and commodities sold.
Chris Cole, a neighbor of Shaughnessy who received a special use permit earlier this year to operate his business, also spoke on her behalf.
“I see no negative impact to her operating her business. The only negative impact I see would be to not approve her permit,” said Cole.
Another neighbor, Anissa Jones, pleaded with council saying, “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t have known she had a business.”
She said no substantial amount of traffic or noise comes from Shaughnessy’s home and that her income from being a LuLaRoe consultant goes to supporting her family.
“That’s her dream home, and if you don’t revisit this, she may have to leave because this is her means of supporting her kids,” said Jones.
Speaking on the changes in today’s home businesses was business professor Dr. Diane Henderson who warned the town of not being attractive to young business owners.
“Times are changing, and marketing skills are changing…We almost feel Erin has been singled out because there are so many home-based businesses in the town of Halifax that are not being brought up in this same situation. She’s being brought up because she tried to do the right thing … and you will not find a better citizen,” said Henderson.
Business owner Candace Baskervill, who operates Sweet Cees, called Halifax’s current ordinance “antiquated” and “not fair,” adding “sometimes a business doesn’t allow an individual to operate out of a storefront.”
She previously operated her business in downtown South Boston, but recently she made the move to operating out of her home.
Baskervill also informed council Shaughnessy donated $300 to help her purchase supplies for victims of the hurricane in coastal Carolina last year.
Her mother, Betsye Throckmorton, father Harvey Throckmorton and husband Dan Shaughnessy also spoke on her behalf.
“I want to commend Erin for coming forward and trying to do the right thing by the town for going through the process. I know I have patronized numerous other businesses in this town that are home-based businesses. I don’t know if you know about them or not, but we’re not here about them. I encourage you to strongly re-evaluate the guidelines set forth for this special use permit. I think something is being missed here. What Erin is trying to do here…it’s no more than someone attending a Tupperware party,” her mother said.
Shaughnessy also told council she believes there are others who are selling art, jewelry, handbags and crafts as well as caregivers, photographers, bankers and lawyers who work from home. She can’t help but wonder why she was denied and has been in the limelight, but she said she’s willing to compromise in order to operate her business.
But Cheryl Watts said that compromise is not the point.
She believes there are businesses operating within the town of Halifax who do not have permits and are not following town code.
“Where do we go from here,” said councilman Jack Dunavant before suggesting taking a look into what can be done to help Shaughnessy become compliant.
Councilman Bill Covington then asked Espy to see what businesses they have on the books and to ensure everyone is compliant.
He said Shaughnessy’s home is in a R-1 residential zone, and when they look at a permit application, council is “not looking at a person.
“Erin’s a great gal and a great family. But the thing I’m hung up on is there are no retail sales. She can do all the work she wants to on the internet. She’s doing that already. But, it’s a retail business. If her friends will go to her home, why won’t they come to the farmers market,” said Confroy.
The town manager said five home occupation businesses are operating in a residential zone in the town of Halifax, and he is currently unaware of any violations.
He also said he anticipates the commission to review the definition of home occupation again.