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Battle Lines

New Jersey fight may drag the home-office zoning issue into the Supreme Court
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 1999 issue of Subscribe »

The legal match between New Jersey homebased entrepreneurs and legislators may find its way into the nation's highest court if the Home-Based Business Promotion Act (S.632/A.1112) is defeated in the New Jersey Senate this fall.

The legislation would allow homebased businesses to legally operate as long as they're undetectable to neighbors-i.e., no additional noise, traffic or pollution. Opponents of the legislation say the language of the current bill is too vague and doesn't specifically prohibit retailing, manufacturing and warehousing businesses, while restrictions on customer visitations would be unenforceable.

"We're not against homebased businesses, but we've been insisting all along that if you're going to have a bill that permits business activity in every residential area, you need to ensure adequate protections are in place," explains William G. Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

Assemblyman Joel Weingarten has sponsored A.2578 (also to be introduced for voting in the fall), which only allows for office-related and telecommunications businesses, and no customer visitations. Dressel says municipalities could widen the provisions to allow other businesses if they wish.

Chris Hansen, president of the Home Based Business Council Inc., balks at the customer-prohibition rule, and counters the original bill takes no power from municipalities, who set the "detectable" standards for home offices. Also, he says municipalities have an underlying concern that they may lose money: Under S.632/A.1112, no zoning registration or fees would be required for homebased businesses, whereas A.2578 allows municipalities to charge these fees if they wish.

"We spent the summer trying to educate the legislators as to the benign character of the bill, and also to warn them of a probable constitutional battle for the right to work at home," says Hansen. "Once we succeed in New Jersey, we intend to make it a national issue. The Fifth Amendment is very specific as to the freedoms that people should have, and these freedoms have been stolen."

To learn more about this issue, e-mail

Contact Source
New Jersey State League of Municipalities

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