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
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.
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
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.