Since spring 1997, homebased business advocates and entrepreneurs have been waging a battle against municipal leaders in New Jersey. If the Home-Based Business Protection Act (S.632/A.1112) is defeated this fall, proponents vow to take the issue to the Supreme Court.
The bill declares homebased businesses legal as long as business activities remain undetectable to neighbors--meaning no pollution, noise or additional traffic, explains Chris Hansen, president of the Home Based Business Council Inc. The bill, which passed the Assembly with Republican sponsor Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, was pulled from Senate voting last July when co-sponsor Senator Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) saw it would be defeated. At press time, Kyrillos was planning to reintroduce it when the fall session reconvened in September.
Opponents of the bill, led by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJSLOM), say the language is vague. "There is no language expressly prohibiting retailing, manufacturing or warehousing, [and] the language pertaining to customer visitations would be virtually unenforceable," explains William G. Dressel, executive director of NJSLOM. Another bill (A.2578), sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Joel Weingarten for introduction in the fall session, allows only for office-related and telecommunications activities with no customer visits allowed.
Hansen argues that under the original bill, municipalities still retain the power to set standards for homebased businesses. He contends money is a hidden motive of the bill's opponents: S.632/A.1112 requires no zoning registration, and therefore no fees. A.2578 would let municipalities set fees if they wish.
"We [plan to] warn [legislators] with regard to the probability of a constitutional battle for the right to work at home," Hansen said at press time. "We intend to make it a national issue. The [Constitution] is very specific as to the freedoms people should have, and these freedoms have been stolen."