30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: NIMBY – Hurdles to opening your doors

When locating your business, seek the path of least resistance. You will not regret it. That means you pick the zoning that your business fits in – and has the least amount of restrictions. Ideally that will mean you do not need to get a conditional or interim use permit from the city. If you need to get a permit from the city to open your doors, you are likely going to encounter a lengthy process. Conditional permits are much better than interim permits (interim permits need to be renewed every few years, conditional are indefinite). If you need to get a permit, you will likely go through a process like this:

  • Complete application for permit and pay a fee (usually hundreds of dollars, we had to pay around $600)
  • Hold an open house for neighbors to come talk to you about your plans
  • Deal with a lot of back and forth with individuals in the planning department that have questions
  • Deal with special requests from the city to do things (i.e. update parking lot lights, get a traffic study, etc) – usually costly things you don’t want to do
  • The planning staff will then forward your application with their recommendation to approve or deny (you want them to recommend approving, it’s unlikely to pass without that)
  • The planning commission will review your application and you’ll attend a hearing where you’ll answer their questions and they’ll hear from your neighbors about their thoughts on your business location, if they approve it you’ll move on to the city council
  • The city council will review your application, you’ll attend a hearing where you’ll answer their questions and they’ll hear from your neighbors about their thoughts on your business location, if they approve it then you’ve gotten the greenlight

This process can take months and they can postpone it to another meeting if it’s controversial meaning another 1-2 months before it’s even heard. That’s what we had to deal with. We were naive in selecting our location. While the building, land, and visibility were perfect – the residences located directly behind our building created a huge, annoying problem. Even though those residents had chosen to live next door to industrially zoned property, they did not want basically anything that created noise, etc in that building. They fought us hard and we barely got in the space. How did we make it?

  • Sympathetic city. Roseville seems to be very pro-business and their staff took the time to really understand our proposal and know why it would work. They toured other dog daycares so we could prove to them that noise would not be a huge issue.
  • Knowledge. We spent a lot of time researching any possible concern that could come up at the meetings and as part of our proposal. We made sure that we had thought of every worst-case scenario so that we could answer any possible question that came up. This helped tremendously in the planning commission and city council meetings – and likely was a deciding factor.
  • Relationships. I spent a lot of time going back and forth with a city planning staff member. Throughout the process I frequently sought his honest feedback about aspects of our application and proposal, and used that to make it something that could be passed. For example, we wanted our original interim permit to be for 5 years but he recommended asking for 3 because it would be easier to pass. His input was critical in getting our approval. Because I had built a relationship with him, it was much easier to get planning staff to recommend the passage of our application because we essentially had worked on the application together.
  • Empathy. My business partner and I were empathetic to the neighboring residents and truly cared about their concerns about thoughts. We went around, door to door, to all of their homes and asked for their thoughts on our business. We also provided them with some free passes so they could try us out. We also sent out a survey to our neighboring residents every few months for the first year in business to make sure we were not negatively impacting their time at home.

Next, 30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur: Negotiating for your lease

Photo Credit: N. Kuzma

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