Dayton still makes business difficult

With massive vacancies in commercial space in Dayton (a banker from out of town told me that his people thought downtown was a ghost town when looking at site selection)- the city of Dayton still does its best to make business all but impossible.

Today’s Dayton Daily had an article about businesses moving to Springboro– and yet, no one working for “Inspector Gotcha” in City Hall will acknowledge that the culture of City Hall is to say no first and often. Here is a plea to open a small neighborhood coffee shop in my neighborhood, by a neighborhood resident from his Facebook page:

…the American way…

Ghostlight Coffee needs You!

Luckily we live in America & we have opportunities to come together, to show support for one another, and make our voice heard!

It’s been in the works for a very, VERY long time. In reality, we hoped that we would be open by now, and that all of you would be stopping in, shopping for some terrific coffees and teas to share this Christmas, but alas, no….thanks to an abundance of RED TAPE.

The owners of the building which will (hopefully) be the home of Ghostlight Coffee must receive a variance from the City of Dayton Board of Zoning Appeals, in order to switch the zoning from “retail” to “restaurant.” The good news is that we have been approved for the next BZA hearing on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28th. The bad news is, that if the building is not approved for this zoning change, the future of Ghostlight Coffee is uncertain. Therefore…Ghostlight Coffee needs YOU!

Ghostlight Coffee needs to show that our community is in support of our efforts to open a great, community-based coffeehouse on Wayne Avenue. There are two ways that we could use your help in this matter:

1. E-Mail a letter of support for the zoning change.

2. Attend the zoning appeal hearing on December 28th (if you can) and ask to speak on behalf of the efforts of the owners of the building &/or the folks at Ghostlight Coffee.

The primary issue holding this zoning change up is the fact that our on-site parking lot is just a few spaces shy of the required amount for a “restaurant” (no we will not be a full-blown restaurant, this will be a COFFEEhouse….and other incredible beverages). This is a minor technicality, due to the fact that Theobold Court (street that runs parallel with Wayne, directly behind Ghostlight’s location) has plenty of on-street parking that is rarely utilized.

If you are willing to send off an email about this issue, here are the details:

a) letters/emails should be sent to three individuals:

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

(this way we can take a hard copy to the hearings, in case the email doesn’t make it into the board packets)

If you prefer to send letters, the mailing address for both individuals is:

Department of Planning and Community Development
City of Dayton
101 W. Third Street
Dayton, OH 45402

b) The letters don’t have to be too long, but please make sure that you:

Ask that the Board of Zoning Appeals grant the requested variance for parking at 1201 Wayne Avenue, Dayton, OH 45410.

Choose a couple relevant points that you could address (choose the ones most pertinent to your position in the community or how you would anticipate in your patronage to Ghostlight Coffee or similar businesses which open on Wayne Ave.)…some suggestions:

  • the building has been vacant and blighted for years and its return to use would benefit the Historic South Park neighborhood (& surrounding neighborhoods);
  • the location is within walking/biking distance from your house/work/school, therefore you anticipate walking/biking to the business frequently (versus driving & parking);
  • this area of the city is in need of more third places, such as coffeehouses, where members of the community can meet, socialize and help to build the community;
  • the owners of the building and the operator of the proposed coffee shop are residents of Historic South Park and community leaders who are sensitive to neighborhood concerns and will be good commercial neighbors.
  • the historic district regulations prevent demolition of properties to increase parking for businesses in South Park;
  • most buildings on Wayne were built before cars existed and do not have adequate parking;
  • the area will continue to be depressed with increasing commercial vacancies if the board does not relax the parking requirements for businesses;
  • there are many unused street parking spaces on Theobald Court (and no homes on Theobald) where overflow parking can be easily accommodated;
  • returning this building to use will likely encourage other commercial development on Wayne Avenue (domino effect);
  • the success of other business leaders along Wayne Ave. (Pizza Factory, South Park Tavern, Remember When Antiques, etc.) prove that neighborhoods along the Wayne Avenue corridor desire a healthy business district;

Thanks for your support and for your anticipated letters.

Our hearing is Dec. 28th, but there may be an earlier SE Priority Board Hearing, therefore the earlier these letters of support are sent, the better for our efforts to make Ghostlight Coffee a reality!

(PLEASE TRY TO HAVE THESE EMAILS/LETTERS OF SUPPORT SENT BY DECEMBER 15th, due to the holidays)

Thank you very much!

Shane Anderson

via …the American way…Ghostlight Needs YOUR Support!.

Over 20 years ago- I faced the same hassles in opening up The Next Wave in South Park- despite the building being a former corner grocery store- and having been boarded up for 15 years. The list of grievances that Inspector Gotcha came up with were long and expensive- including the insane requirement of a sprinkler system in the basement and asking for a backflow preventer (because as a graphic design firm/ad agency- we’d be “pouring paints and inks down the drains”- apparently they’d never seen a Macintosh before).

Our permanent occupancy permit was delayed 9 months- and a city inspector once tried to tell us he’d “shut us down” if our employees parked in front of a neighbor’s house on a public street (apparently they had a private parking spot privilege according to the martinet).

Having worked with many small businesses start up over the last 20 years- I can tell you nothing has changed. Just recently Gary Staiger was telling me how it was a hassle and a half moving Omega Music into the former Gem City Records vacant location- an identical use).

Please help Shane do what’s good for Dayton- write a letter of support. It’s time to send a message to Inspector Gotcha that it’s time to start saying yes first- or at least, here’s how we can help you.

Thank you

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog, please head over and use our services at The Next Wave Printing for all your printing needs. We have 4 Color Business cards starting at just $13.50.

19 Responses

  1. David Esrati December 12, 2010 / 9:17 am

    My letter- feel free to address it to Inspector Gotcha to signify where you first heard of this issue.

    Department of Planning and Community Development
    City of Dayton
    101 W. Third Street
    Dayton, OH 45402

    To Inspector Gotcha at the City of Dayton,
    Please do the city a favor and retire already. The South Park Historic District flourished long before we had zoning codes, building codes and architectural review boards. We were a walkable community that was self-sufficient. We had corner groceries, meat markets, churches, dry cleaners, bars, restaurants, clock shops, pickle factories, casket makers, and it all just worked. It was “New Urbanism” before there was sprawl and “super markets” and strip centers.
    It’s amazing that in a space that last held a seedy cell phone store- people that don’t live in our neighborhood, are suggesting that it’s a problem to have a coffee shop because it “lacks parking.”
    Because we now live with “Historic Zoning” it makes it impossible to tear down buildings to create the number of parking spaces you would require- making the property impossible to develop.
    It’s these kind of stupid decisions that have helped destroy our community- and put beautiful buildings like the Ballsey building in the heart of the Oregon District into a permanent state of limbo- until they deteriorate enough to require being torn down- and then, having a lot that is too small to develop (note the former church location at 6th & Brown that has sat empty for 20 years).
    It’s time to acknowledge that your rules conflict with what’s good for our community and stop throwing up barriers to viable businesses in our community.
    Thank you-
    Resident and business owner in South Park.

    Signature DAVID ESRATI
    The Next Wave / 937·228·4433
    100 Bonner Street · Dayton · OH · 45410 · USA
    A Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (SDVOB), HUBzone certified business
    @THENEXTWAVE

  2. Dee December 12, 2010 / 1:24 pm
    Dear Mr. Ison and Ms. Nisonger: 
     
    Through David Esrati’s blog, I recently became aware of a zoning issue with regard to the request of Ghostlight Coffee.  It is my understanding that potential proprietors of the coffee shop are requesting a variance of the zoning regulation regarding the number of parking spaces required for such a business at 1201 Wayne Avenue.  I am writing to respectfully request that the variance be granted so the coffee shop can open and compliment the businesses that are already there and trying to establish the kind of neighborhood that Dayton needs to survive. 
     
    A lifelong city of Dayton resident, I lived in South Park when it was the kind of neighborhood for which we now long. Poepplemeier’s Paint, Cassano’s Pizza, Graeff Hardware, Heller’s Rexall Pharmacy, the Oak Club, Gershaw’s Grocery, Smitty’s Model Shop, a movie theatre (Sigma), a hospital,  a dry cleaner and a laundromat, to name a few, were all within a two or three block radius of our home on Park Drive.   In my youth and adulthood, we walked any time it was feasible to do so and we knew virtually everybody because they were walking, too.  We knew each other and watched out for each other, something that is rare in neighborhoods these days.    
     
    There are some insightful residents of the area who can visualize those times and are working hard to recreate that kind of neighborhood.  The residents must be encouraged to breathe new life into the neighborhood and not be discouraged by bureaucrats.  In a neighborhood that was built when the lifestyle was so different, it is unreasonable to  expect the perfection for which we strive when we build instead of refurbish and repurpose old buildings in old neighborhoods.   
     
    I am reminded of a poem by Joyce Kilmer about the difference of an old dwelling versus a new one: 
     
    Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door, Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store. But there’s nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone For the lack of something within it that it has never known.   But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life, That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife, A house that has echoed a baby’s laugh and held up his stumbling feet, Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.   Please, grant the variance so the building in question can be brought back to life and serve as a meeting place for people in the community who will continue to work to make it better.  I am positive that the coffee house will bring more foot traffic than car traffic and even if I am wrong, parking is available on side streets (such as Theobald Court).    I am not an activist, nor do I even know to whom David Esrati refers when he speaks of “Inspector Gotcha.”  My guess, however, is that the Inspector might be the same man who shut down a similar effort on Xenia Avenue a few years ago.   The proprietor struggled for months to keep the coffee shop up and running, but finally threw up his hands and closed because of ridiculous issues like this.  In the months that it was in business, the coffee shop was frequented by neighbors who LOVED the old-time atmosphere.     I was there on many occasions and can unequivically vouch for the mood and need for such an establishment.  Unfortunately, I can also unequivocally vouch for the frustration of the proprietor, neighbors and other supporters when the variances were not granted to allow this great place to survive.  
     
    Please consider this information when you make your decision regarding the variance for the coffee shop and for similar requests in the future.  If there is additional information I can provide, I will be happy to do so.  Thank you.
  3. Jeff Dziwulski December 12, 2010 / 8:56 pm
    The ironic thing is that Theobald (if this is the street I think it is) was apparently WIDENED at one time, perhaps to provide the very off-street parking and back service loading for business on Wayne Avenue

    My guess, however, is that the Inspector might be the same man who shut down a similar effort on Xenia Avenue a few years ago.   

    I wonde if this was Stone Soup.  I had high hopes for that place,was there for the opening concert (and documented it on my blog).  Alas, it was not to be!

    I don’t really have a voice here since I don’t live in Dayton, but I will say this:  Dayton NEEDS more places like this proposed coffee shop, so called “third places”.

  4. shelly December 12, 2010 / 11:31 pm
    Oops Mr. E. I accidentally clicked the thumbs down on your letter. Sorry, I meant to click the green thumbs up.
    I have witnessed this red tape nightmare up close, twice, in the last 5 years alone. First with the Jasper Wall Creative Sound Cafe’ in the Oregon District, (which closed in 2008), and then again with Dayton Dirt Collective downtown, which closed Jan. 2010. It’s not so much that the city is hassling the occupants but rahter the landlords where these businesses reside. (or at least that has been the case in the two venues I have been involved in.)
    When will we see some common sense restored in the zoning dept? How is this helping the future of Dayton?
  5. Civil Servants Are People, Too December 13, 2010 / 12:24 am
    Once again, I see people pointing the finger at the plans examiners doing their job and following the law.    Why is this tirade directed at the front line staff and not the elected officials who have the power to change the CODE itself.
     
    Do you ask the cop to stop giving you a parking ticket because you disagree with the “No Parking” sign?  Why should building and zoning codes be any different?  Every large community in Ohio has basically the same process.
     
    Going through ONE public hearing process to discuss parking issues does not seem heavy-handed.   The community can make their wishes known and the staff can follow the law.  The board makes the final decision.  They can agree on what is appropriate.   It doesn’t have to be a fight to the death.
     
    In other words, please stop shooting the messengers.
     
  6. Civil Servants Are People, Too December 13, 2010 / 12:30 am
    PS.  Of the two Dayton businesses mentioned in the DDN article, one is a Dance studio catering to wealthy suburban families and the other was actually headquartered in Miamisburg with a small Dayton office.
     
    Is that really a surprise if they move to Springboro?   Hardly the thing to cry about when Dayton just landed GE.  Sprawl is more to blame than anything else in those 2 cases.
     

    By moving to Springboro, Barbara Pontecorvo and husband David Shough, head of the Gem City, moved closer to the kind of wealthy aspiring ballerinas they hope to attract.  They also will be closer to their home in Carlisle and their Great Danes.
    However, after the center was foreclosed, they were able to buy the Springboro site for $300,000 at auction, she said.

     
     
    Oh yeah, there are foreclosures in Springboro, too.  Let’s not forget that.

  7. David Esrati December 13, 2010 / 7:32 am

    @CSPAT- yes. sure. “Dayton just landed GE”- with $7 million from the state, $500K from ED/GE and a bunch of bureaucrats tripping over themselves.

    As to all your “plans examiners”- that also includes people who look over architects stamped drawings and add their 2 cents. If a registered architect signs off on plans- it should be enough to allow the plans to go forward- and if there are problems- the architect can be held responsible.

    No decision on any small business issue should take more than 3 business days- or the city should pay the small business for lost opportunity costs. Something has to be done to end this cycle of bureaucratic stalling.

    You are quick to always protect and speak up for your fellow paper pushers- and slow to realize that no other business would survive with the level of paperwork and customer unfriendly service that you provide.

    This coffee shop could have been open 6 months ago. Choke on that.

  8. djw December 13, 2010 / 10:48 am
    Civil Servants are People Too,
    Generally, I agree with you regarding where our frustration is best directed at law makers rather than law enforcers. That said, making that point in this context seems willfully obtuse. Agencies that interpret and implement the law have a significant amount of discretion about which laws to enforce, and how to enforce them. Anyone familiar with zoning laws and regulations knows that they are often written in such a way that actual inspectors are given a tremendous amount of latitude and discretion. That’s not necessarily a terrible policy choice; there are potential benefits to that kind of discretion that can’t be ignored.
    What I’ve heard about quite a lot in Dayton, in my short time here (and not just on this blog) is this discretion being used in a harassing, rude, seemingly arbitrary way, such that small independent businesses are put at a particular disadvantage. As I’ve said before, this approach to zoning can work in a really hot neighborhood in a hot city, but it’s a disaster for a city like Dayton with so many empty storefronts. Dayton is exactly the kind of place where the rational thing to do would be to err on the side of less aggressive interpretation and enforcement of laws, as businesses are so desperately needed. Yet, unless the small business owners of Dayton are uniquely whiny and making things up, it seems perfectly obvious to me that relative to other cities Dayton’s inspectors, zoning board, etc, uses their discretion more aggressively rather than less. The City of Dayton needs more than jobs, it needs residents. And the people who work for GE are going to be a lot less likely to live in the city if our commercial corridors are filled with empty, boarded up buildings because various laws are interpreted and enforced in a way that drives out entrepreneurs.
    I honestly don’t believe you’d take the implications of your own argument seriously. If, tomorrow, the Chief of Police in Dayton announced that they were shifting all their discretionary resources to a new unit devoted to tracking down and arresting every casual marijuana user in Dayton, would you just shrug your shoulders and say “hey, don’t blame him, blame the lawmakers who made marijuana illegal”? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d–correctly–point out that given the problems Dayton currently faces, that’s a truly appalling use of resources. That’s what we’re saying here.
  9. Civil Servants Are People, Too December 14, 2010 / 12:20 am
    Clearly, I’m asking for more punishment.  I recognize my argument is not a popular one.   So someone explain this to me:
     
    If the law says Building ABC needs X number of parking spaces, how is it wrong for the inspector to say, “I’m sorry, your plan does not comply with the law” when it is his or her job to enforce the law?
     
    In this case, the parking was specifically pointed out as the issue.   Not rudeness.   Not lack of service.   Rather, it is a factual disagreement about the number of parking spaces required.   Call it “red tape” but it’s still a law that the front line inspector cannot change.  He or she is PERSONALLY LIABLE if s/he knowingly allows someone to break the law and issues a permit.  Does anyone realize that?
     
    In this case, perhaps the neighborhood supports the business.  That’s GREAT!   But what if they don’t?   Doesn’t the community have the right to make their voices heard in a public forum?   What if it was a strip club or a junkyard?  Should business be allowed to completely ignore the wishes of the neighborhood?   How about a high-density pig farm?  Imagine that in your South Park!
     
    Just because a person says “no” sometimes does not mean that person is doing something wrong.   No professional can “bend” or “interpret” a simple mathematical formula.    I assume Dayton says something like X parking spaces per Y square feet of building.    If you consider yourself a respectable professional in your field, how do you interpret that formula in any other honest, ethical way?
     
    I will concede to DJW’s point that this may be the wrong place to make a reasonably factual argument about how the law works.   But if the author won’t do it, somebody should.   I’m here because civil servants are people, too.    If you don’t like the law, then go after the people MAKING THE LAW.
     
     
  10. Joe December 14, 2010 / 1:09 am
    @CSAPT: In this case, perhaps the neighborhood supports the business.  That’s GREAT!   But what if they don’t?   Doesn’t the community have the right to make their voices heard in a public forum?   What if it was a strip club or a junkyard?  Should business be allowed to completely ignore the wishes of the neighborhood?   How about a high-density pig farm?  Imagine that in your South Park!

    That is a slippery slope argument. Coffee Shop to Pig Farm in three sentences? That coffee shop would do great, I walk to Oregon or Ohio Coffee downtown to support those business; and I live in Walnut Hills. Businesses cant ignore the neighborhood, but you clearly haven’t the faintest idea about the neighborhoods you are speaking for. I understand standards must be met, but it seems the City is actually smothering this venture. The strip between 5th to Wyoming on Wayne could be a great area for small businesses, sort of another Oregon or like High Street in north of OSU in Columbus.  I agree with Esrati on this one.

  11. Jeff Dziwulski December 14, 2010 / 5:00 am
    The strip between 5th to Wyoming on Wayne could be a great area for small businesses, sort of another Oregon or like High Street in north of OSU in Columbus.

    Or Bardstown Road or Frankfort Avenue in Louisville…reading this makes me think of the situation in Louisville:

    The primary issue holding this zoning change up is the fact that our on-site parking lot is just a few spaces shy of the required amount for a “restaurant”

    Believe it or not these two commercial strips in Louisville lack on-site parking..,in many cases the storefronts have no on-site parking of any sort, and vistors have to park on side streets or the main drag.  Yet they are lined with businessess of various types, including the restaurants and coffeeshops that we’d like to see in Dayton. 

    Sure, a lot this has to do with market and demand, but the point is that the powers-that-be in Louisville apparently are not clamping down on retail and food/drink establishments if there isn’t parking directly on the site.   .

    Seriously folks, y’all need to make it EASIER to start up these kinds of small businesses, be more FLEXIBLE, not throw roadblocks in the way by enforcing every jot and tittle of regulation.  Your city is dying, and you are going to lower the coffin into the grave with red tape.

  12. Jeff Dziwulski December 14, 2010 / 5:02 am
    As I’ve said before, this approach to zoning can work in a really hot neighborhood in a hot city, but it’s a disaster for a city like Dayton with so many empty storefronts. Dayton is exactly the kind of place where the rational thing to do would be to err on the side of less aggressive interpretation and enforcement of laws, as businesses are so desperately needed.

    Bingo!  Excellent comment!

  13. David Esrati December 14, 2010 / 7:00 am

    @CSAPT- So the civil servant follows the law- and says no. How long does it take to get to yes in this town? 6 months is unacceptable. I suggest a 2 week window on any project that costs under a million bucks.
    And- maybe, the answer is pig farms. Since we seem to have no problem handing our money out to pork like GE- why not raise it here?
    If the civil servants were doing their job- I wouldn’t have to be writing the post I just wrote about Pointview: http://esrati.com/what-would-cory-booker-do-same-as-david-esrati-would-the-pointview-solution/6039/
    It’s time for a sea change in this city.
    And- if it means we need to go to free for all zoning- It seems to work in Houston: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2007/10/how_houston_gets_along_without_zoning.html

  14. Tony December 14, 2010 / 8:24 am
    Just to be clear about Houston: while it does not have a formal zoning code, it does have plenty of development regulations including–you guessed it–parking.  A variance, such as the subject of your post, would be required there too. 
  15. David Lauri December 14, 2010 / 5:51 pm
    CSAPT asks:

    If the law says Building ABC needs X number of parking spaces, how is it wrong for the inspector to say, “I’m sorry, your plan does not comply with the law” when it is his or her job to enforce the law?

    and goes on to suggest:

    If you don’t like the law, then go after the people MAKING THE LAW.

     
    So why doesn’t Mayor Leitzell or one of the City Commissioners propose changing some of Dayton’s ordinances related to these zoning issues?

  16. Civil Servants Are People, Too December 16, 2010 / 1:30 am
    Finally!  Somebody gets it.
     
     
     
     
  17. Melissa December 16, 2010 / 10:52 am
    I can understand most of your points, CSAPT. My question to you: Is there any kind of system in place where inspectors are encouraged (or even allowed) to make suggestions and work solutions that might lead to taking adjusted/new policies to the commission and mayor for consideration?
    In other words, are the people in the trenches given the ability to work solutions to problems that are hindering business owners and those developing new businesses?
  18. Sam December 30, 2011 / 6:54 am

    I disagree with Dayton being Immigrant friendly city. Even LEGAL Immigrants who lived dacades in the city complain the attitude and discriminatory behavior of city employees towards them. Local Priority Boards specially Southeast priority board is very Confrontational to Legal immigrants. Recently there was an Outcry about A southeast priority board coordinator Connie Nisonger about her treatment and her negative views about LEGAL immigrants. Southeast priority Board coodinator was accused of Verbally assaulting a legal immigrant and making derogotaory comments about the individual. She does her best to hinder a Minority business from establishing.
    Connie Nosinger runs the East dayton Priority board. East dayton Housing and businesses are impacted by the decisions they make about their fate. Connie Nosinger Resides in a posh neighborhood outside dayton. But she acts like she cares about East dayton. I believe city of dayton needs someone who is from dayton and who cares about dayton residents and businesses.

  19. Ann August 28, 2015 / 1:33 pm
    To whom it my concern
    I went to school with Connie Neisonger,
    She was a very hateful person 45 years ago in the small town of Fort Fairfield, Maine,
    And yes if she does not like you she can be a very rude.hateful,sarcastic bitc*
    The city of Dayton deserves a lot better than her in charge ~ I know I have family in Ohio and was going to move to Dayton Ohio
    Not when I heard of her She would be a better dog catcher than what she is doing to the city of Dayton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *