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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dealing With Government Workers

For the past few years, I've preached about working to have multiple streams of income.  If one or more streams fail, you're not left high-and-dry with no sort of cash flow.  Most often, this is in the form of a husband and wife each working.  A great way to augment that, is to have "side jobs" by doing repair work, or having an eBay store or something similar.

Personally, I've been working to have more steady streams.  My wife is a teacher, and I do the firearms and emergency prep classes.  BUT, my classes give me a great deal of "spare" time, so I've been working with some associates about opening a retail store (I'm going to just leave it at that).

We've identified a property to lease.  It has a great location, awesome traffic patterns, what seems to be a very flexible landlord and a number of very attractive features. It was recently some sort of hair salon, and we'll need to do some minor tenant improvements to change it to our purposes, plus change the signs, window advertising, etc.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of the day meeting with local government officials.  To say that I came away with a bad taste in my mouth would be the ultimate of understatements.  Apparently, they haven't received the memo that times are tough, and cities should be doing everything in their power to attract - NOT REPEL - businesses from opening in their city.

I started in the Business License department.  Aside from not being able to answer my ownership questions, they were VERY knowledgeable on how much we were going to have to pay each year. 

A business in the city has to pay roughly $160 per year for a license.  Not too onerous of a number.  BUT, the building we want to use for our business is in a "special district" - an excuse to bump up fees.  When all was said and done, our fee went from $160 to nearly $500!

The city will do no more work.  They will have no more paperwork.  Since it is a nice area of town, the crime rate is lower, so there are actually fewer demands upon the police.  They simply have identified the most desirable areas of the city, and use it to their taxing advantage.

The lady I was getting reamed by mentioned in passing that since the intended use of the property was changing - from a hair salon to our business (both retail, non-massage parlors!) - we would have to get a review of our business from the zoning department.  OK.

The zoning lady was very nice, and almost seemed apologetic at the absurdity of having to go through this review.  She was able to remove a few normal additional reviews, and really was quite helpful.  Still, this busy-work review will take 2 to 4 weeks, and cost us another $1400.  FOURTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!

We were chatting about the business, and she asked if we would need any tenant improvements.  I told her we didn't think so, other than interior painting.  She said that was OK to do without permits.  Woo hoo! 

She asked about counters and display cases for our goods, and I said we would be adding some of those, but they would be free-standing.  Red flag!  I'd need to talk to the building department about those.

I walked over to that department, and was introduced to the wonderful world of the ADA - the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I'm still sore from the screwing I got.

I was given the specifications - heights, widths and positioning of an ADA-only section of our store.  The positioning part was most infuriating.  I drew out a sketch of where we might add this section.  It was near the end of a long line of cases.  I was told that was unacceptable.  When I asked why, I was told (and I quote), "You don't send disabled people to the 'back of the bus.'"

WTF!?  I was stunned into silence.  If this had just been some guy on the street, we would have fought.  To imply our intent was to discriminate against anyone infuriated me to no end.  And to bring up an example so steeped in American history was way out of bounds.  It is the "Race Card" of the ADA.

But this smug bastard knew he held us by the throat.  To get in his face and call him the pious bastard he is, would have meant additional months and months of city bureaucracy, with no guarantee we would ever get approved.  As is, he was unwilling to tell me how much their review would cost, nor how long it would take.  I was told to set up an interview with the top dog and HE might be able to give us some idea as to additional time and expense.

So, this city is going to take many thousands of dollars out of our pockets.  Their reviews and forced-blessings will delay the opening of our shop by months.  Instead of using those funds to hire tax-paying employees, or to hire tax-paying contractors to do work on our shop, or to buy additional tax-generating products to sell, these leaches of society are going to steal our money to keep their fiefdom intact.

The short-sightedness is astounding to me.  I've read of stories like this in the past, but this is the first time I've been directly affected by this process.

This type of onerous interjection into business is what convinces many people to simply go underground.  We have an acquaintance that does this type of business "on the side" and he doesn't have to deal with any of this crap.  Maybe he has the right approach.

I'll keep you updated with our progress...

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GunRights4US said...

The very idea that you should go into business reveals you to be an evil capitalist! It’s clear from your attitude that you have every intent of exploiting, for profit, those less fortunate souls around you. It’s a damn good thing we have good people in positions of authority within the government that understand and accept the task of keeping lecherous wannabe-rich folks like you in line. If you cared about your fellow man, and if you fancied yourself a patriotic American, you would immediately abandon these empty dreams of being wealthy and accept your station in life. Why the very idea of being unwilling to pay what’s merely your fair share….

[shaking head in virtual disgust]


How’d I do Chief? I could passed for a leftist whacko straight out of Frisco huh?

Chief Instructor said...

Guns, you could have passed for a Pelosi-voting statist without any problem!

I'm telling you, speaking with that guy at the permit area was a kick in the gut. He's got his power, and he intends on using it. Workin' for the people...

monkeyfan said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of being a human ATM/business owner.

Anonymous said...

You should make this known to elected officials who may have some influence. I have an internet-only side business (not very profitable, but allows me to dabble in mil surplus), and the fees are still a few hundred a year to be an LLC.

Chief Instructor said...

Monkeyfan, I'm WELL acquainted with being a great source of cashflow in CA. It's unreal how they dig into your biz till whenever the mood strikes them.

Suburban, we'll wait until after we're up and running. No need to give them reason to slow down an already creeping process. Gotta play the game...

Chief Instructor said...

[sigh] As it turns out, we're not getting the property anyways! We've been dealing with the daughter of the owner, and for a couple of reasons, we won't be renting from them. Irreconcilable differences on some of the terms.

At least we now know what this city is like, and will know what to look for in other properties we view.

monkeyfan said...

Best wishes in your endeavor Chief Instructor.

Chief Instructor said...

Much thanks!

Joseph said...

You might want to floss again, I can still see wood shavings in your teeth from the broom stick action in your hind orifice.

Here is a story you can probably deeply relate to. A family member in a 'New' state has a commercial building that he needed to pay taxes on. He goes to the tax office and they explain there has been a small increase in his taxes. Once he hears the amount he thinks, ok no problem...not enjoyable but can handle. But they sidestepped the voters by adding an impact fee that was 2x higher than his current property taxes. WTF, turns out they went through and 'assessed' that some businesses have high 'impacts' on the city and needed to pay for the inconvenience they were placing on the city resources. I'm sure you can see the broomsticking he received has nothing to do with impacts but instead has to do with massive shortages in city pension funds and the ludicrous city salaries on some of these bozos.

Chris said...

Reminds me of this...

So glad I don't live in CA. Sorry.

Chris from AK

Chief Instructor said...

Joseph, indeed. As I looked further into the Design review fee, it seems as though the city also has a quick-and-dirty Administrative Review fee - that is ONLY $500 (funny how she didn't mention that...). We're looking to do a business that has zero waste (unlike the hair salon with its bleaches, etc). I'm going to use this time while we find another site to determine when the Design Review is needed and when an Administrative review.

Chris, I just don't understand the mindset of some local governments. Clearly, don't fight city hall, and as that one guy found out, don't go into a competing business!