Guest Commentary: The Case of the Disappearing Bushes

January 2, 2013
By

RED TAPE: State, local and federal regulations should be based on common sense and geared toward helping small businesses prosper, not be a key factor in closing them down

As we put another year behind us, one of the things we always do in the private sector is look back and reflect on how the year went.

As a small business owner we see what we did well, what we need to improve on, and overall how we performed compared to last year. After that reflection, we try to move forward and improve ourselves in the New Year.

For the better part of the last four years I often refer to working in my business as “The Grind”, slogging my way through another year.  Of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom.  As a local entrepreneur, there are many aspects of this job that I truly enjoy:  Helping customers keep their vehicles running, building relationships with those customers, and creating jobs within our community to name a few.

But as we know, there is also the other side to that fence, the things that frustrate me. As you can imagine, rising cost of goods, excessive government red tape, and taxes that always seem to go up, are on that second list.

Local regulations which may often seem innocuous, often affect my bottom line and consequently, my ability to operate my business.

Let me give an example.  Not too long ago, I had a person show up and introduce themselves as a representative of the local planning and zoning department.  This cheerful bureaucrat was carrying with them a set of the blueprints for my building, which I had submitted for approval as a condition of constructing my shop.

The official said they wanted to walk around and survey the property to make sure everything was consistent with what we’d filed on the blueprint. I told them that would be fine, and that I would be pleased to answer any questions they might have.

After walking around the property for a good half an hour, my new friend the zoning bureaucrat came inside to talk to me.

“Mr. Rodenburg are these the blue prints that you submitted to the city when you had the business built?”

I took a quick look at them and responded, “Yes, they are.”

They then proceeded to ask my why two small bushes depicted on my original blueprint next to our dumpster weren’t there.

With a straight face I looked them straight in the eyes and told them, “They died.”

I thought to myself “Is this what this person does on a daily basis? Aren’t there better ways the city can spend our tax revenue than paying someone to drive around town looking for bushes?”

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not the most important guy in town.  My time may not be worth a lot, but it is definitely worth more than trying to explain the weather and drought conditions that led to the death of two inconsequential bushes next to my dumpster.

Which brings me to my final point. That bush-less business is now shuttered.  It was worth three times the amount when it was built in 2004 than it is today.  So instead of asking me to explain why those bushes died, maybe someone in government can explain to me why my property taxes on that property since 2004 have tripled – to the tune of more than ten thousand dollars a year – while its value has plunged.

I’m no math whiz, but that equation doesn’t make sense to me.

Sure, there were numerous factors that led to me deciding to close that business.  But those tax hikes and excessive local red tape were chief among them.

State, local and federal tax policies and regulations should be based on common sense and geared toward helping small businesses prosper, not be a key factor in closing them down.

Todd Rodenburg is a native of Colorado, a graduate of Green Mountain High School, and the co-owner of Green Mountain Auto World, Green Mountain Xpress Lube, and Green Mountain Shell. His family has continuously operated a small business in Lakewood since 1974

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