By Laura Tiffany
Juliette Mills-Lutterodt had no fear when zoning department representatives visited her business: She didn't know she was operating illegally.
The surprise visit came about a month after she launched her homebased nanny placement agency, Agence Georgette, in the basement of her Montclair, New Jersey, home. "I had no idea I was violating any zoning codes," says Mills-Lutterodt, who started her business in July 1997 so she could be with her 6-year-old son.
After ordering her to discontinue the business, the zoning board wrote to her duplex management company, which threatened to evict her if she continued her fledgling agency. "[Ethics] was one of my main concerns," she recalls. "It was important to me not to create any trouble but to get more information about how I could go about [doing business] quietly."
Mills-Lutterodt quelled the concerns of the zoning department by meeting nanny applicants in local coffee shops and continuing her regular practice of interviewing clients in their homes, thereby stopping the flow of traffic to her home. She also joined the Home Based Business Council in Neptune City, a local association working to change the zoning laws in New Jersey. "I really hope something can be done, and we can continue to talk about the laws on this issue. I almost felt I should leave Montclair because of the zoning restrictions. The one or two people who came to [my office] each day could have easily been my friends, and because of that, I can almost feel eyes on me when I have company."
Mills-Lutterodt admits it would be easier for her to meet with applicants in her office with her computer nearby. But until the law changes or she can afford separate office space, she will continue to meet applicants at coffee shops to keep her business legal.
Agence Georgette, (973) 783-4788