3 min read
Posted on 12.25.15
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 12.25.15

 The Business Assistance Center is a single room on the 4th floor of City Hall at which it is usually possible to find every document and approval required to open and operate a business in the City. The BAC has existed in one form or another for more than two decades. https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/sldc/economic-developm...

It is a great idea. A one-stop shop. If you can find it.

A couple of years ago, a very practical staffer noticed that hitch and suggested putting signs between City Hall’s front steps and the BAC. As someone recently said, you can’t jump through hoops if you can’t find even find them. The signs help.

But helping new businesses navigate all the hoops is not enough. There are, as I have heard at public meetings with small businesses and those that want to start them, usually too many hoops. That needed to change.

Earlier this year, the City announced an overhaul of the laws and regulations governing new and growing businesses.The changes fell into three basic categories.

The first has to do with home-based occupations.Many people work out of their houses, and they do so in a way that has minimal, if any, impact on their neighbors.Graphic designers, copy editors, writers, software developers, and many other occupations that drive our tech-centric world can be done from a kitchen table or a back porch.The City should only stand in the way of those businesses if it would somehow place burdens on their neighbors.A few weeks ago I signed into law an ordinance sponsored by Alderman Scott Ogilvie to change the way the City processes home-based occupations. The new system makes regulations easier on emerging businesses while protecting neighborhoods. https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/city-laws/ordinances/ordinance.cfm...

The second is about conditional use permits.New businesses often must obtain a conditional use permit to do something useful or important in a neighborhood that was zoned for a different purpose.For years, the City had set stringent rules in place when a business opened, including telling it what times it could operate and how its business model should be structured.Then, if the business wanted to grow, it would have to come back to get the City's further permission. The rules were sometimes arcane, and often not well publicized. Business owners would arrive at a hearing with no idea what kinds of issues they'd be required to address..And the whole process could take more than a year.Through a set of regulatory reforms, we have made the conditional use process more fair to new and growing businesses, more efficient and quick, and less burdensome when businesses grow.https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/public-safety/building...

The third is, by far, the broadest: reforming the City's outdated, and overly burdensome, City Code that regulates every form of business in the City.To reform the City's business code, Alderwoman Lyda Krewson has sponsored two bills, Board Bills 108 and 110, that will lower the tax burden on micro-businesses and modernize almost all of the City's business code to bring it up to the 21st Century.Board Bill 110 will also give neighborhoods a new tool to fight problem businesses, allowing a small group of neighbors to petition the City to revoke the business licenses and permits that a business has if that business is a nuisance.Both bills are still waiting to be debated in the Board of Aldermen, and I hope the Board approves both bills in early 2016. BB 108 https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/city-laws/board-bills/boardbill.cfm?bbDetail=true&BBId=9974 and BB 110 https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/city-laws/board-bills/boardbill.cfm?bbDetail=true&BBId=9976

These changes, taken together, will get government out of the way of the entrepreneurs and innovators who are building businesses in our City, while protecting neighborhood stability and quality of life.