Guest editorial: Park City regulations harm low-margin small businesses
Operating partner, Park City Bike Demos
For the 4th time in two years, I’m one of the dozens of small businesses caught in completely unnecessary tactics that Park City Municipal Corporation uses to have what’s probably the most complex business regulatory systems in all of Utah. I understand the need to slow development, but what happens when low-margin businesses are compromised as a result, such as all of the requirements the city has placed on our bike shop?
For example, if you’re wondering why the window is so tall at the drive-thru coffee place, making it difficult for employees to hand you a cup of coffee, it’s because the city forced them to install a crawl space. Meanwhile in Logan or dozens of cities with greater snow loads and the same safety requirements, coffee shacks are legitimate coffee shacks that are often on wheels (another violation in this backwards city of ours). How many cups of coffee will that business have to sell to regain these unneeded, completely unnecessary costs?
To me, this is a very serious issue. It means the very essence of what made this city what it is — a level of “funkiness” in its operations requirements and building codes (that we’re now trying to “preserve”) is no longer possible here. As a result, it’s near impossible to inexpensively operate a business here. My bike shop has had to pay over $1,500 in licensing and exemption fees to have the city even consider thinking outside of the box (the application fee for a conditional use permit here is now $330). There are literally “fixers” that businesses hire to help them deal with the city, much like a border crossing into a 3rd world country. Most employees at the city know these people by their first name. Yes, this is a symptom of a major problem here.
Today, my business is battling a claim that a movable piece of furniture should have required a building permit, when we installed it. Even if that were true, instead of just inspecting our work and passing it with flying colors, as it would, they’re requiring we hire a licensed contractor to backtrack submitting a plan when no construction is actually required and never was. If the furniture didn’t look so robust, it probably wouldn’t even be on their radar, just as it wasn’t the last two times they inspected the space without a single change to it other than we moved it 10 inches.
I cannot express how utterly disheartening this is. To me, it means our code enforcement rules are clearly unable to remember what has always made this city what it is, or was before 10 years ago.