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Wellesley small business earns council reprieve

Terry and Aaron Rubach will apply for a zoning amendment for their home-based business. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Terry and Aaron Rubach will apply for a zoning amendment for their home-based business.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Terry and Aaron Rubach will apply for a zoning amendment for their home-based business. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
A small business operating in violation of Wellesley bylaws now has a two-year grace period before its fate is ultimately decided.

Terry Rubach and his father Aaron Rubach have been running a woodworking shop from the son’s home at 4915 William Hastings Line. The use doesn’t comply with the township’s zoning bylaw, as operating from a detached garage doesn’t qualify as a home business and the property, while zoned agricultural, is too small to meet the requirements for an on-farm business – at half an acre, it falls well short of the minimum of 20 acres, and there is no farm operation.

Still, councillors meeting Monday night agreed to let the pair see if the business is viable rather than forcing it to shut down.

The Rubachs requested a two-year grace period, so that if the bylaw amendment (which typically takes six months) is rejected, they would be able to assess if the business is strong enough to support finding a new property.

“We’re simply asking to be able to continue doing the business that we have already started here,” Aaron Rubach told council April 7. “We want to do it legally; we want to be a contributor to this community; we want to do that which can make all of us proud that we are here.

“We’re believers that in small business, everyone has to start somewhere, and small business should be judged on the basis of how they contribute to the community.”

The Rubachs specialize in trellises, and clients include Home Hardware in St. Jacobs. Terry Rubach’s home is an agricultural property for home-based occupation. The woodworking shop is officially designated as a hobby, and the Rubachs hope to expand to a full-fledged business.

Regarding the two-year grace period, Aaron Rubach explained, “One year isn’t sufficient to know whether a business is going to go.”

Coun. Paul Hergott questioned if approving the request could set a precedent for other small businesses to open on residential properties. However, Mayor Ross Kelterborn noted that council has approved temporary bylaw violations when there is a plan in place to get back on track, such as when a second house is built on a one-house lot prior to demolition of the other structure.

“That goes against our bylaws as well, but it corrects itself in time,” said Kelterborn. “We set a precedent when we did the business with the houses, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Everything is not always precedent-setting,” said Coun. Herb Neher. “You look at each case on its own merits, and assess what the peculiarities are. Just because we allowed one case, I don’t see that as precedent-setting.”

Added Coun. Jim Olender, “It’s part of our strategic plan to encourage business, not to thwart it. I know there are some technicalities here, but I still don’t think we shoot somebody down for trying.”

Council ultimately agreed to allow Rubach to operate a business contrary to the zoning bylaw for two years, subject to applying for the appropriate planning act applications.

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