Working With Your City During A Remodel

March 11, 2021
Building and remodeling can be a frustrating venture, especially if your city is putting up hurdles.

March 11, 2021—When talking to shop owners around the country, the most tedious and arduous task when remodeling or building a shop is dealing with the city. Every city have different ordinances and codes and information can be different depending on who you talk to within the city. Many city councils and boards don’t meet frequently, causing delays in your approval plans. 

So what steps can you take to make the process easier?

Brian Carter, the operations director for Shinn Buildings, which builds quick lube and car washes around the country, shares some of the biggest tips he’s picked up working with countless different cities on countless projects. 

Go to the city first.

Especially if you’re building a site from scratch, going to the city is pivotal. Carter has come across cities and towns that wouldn’t allow them to do a lube center at all. You also have to know what the area is zoned for and what the different local ordinances are, like what hours of operation they’ll allow. 

“Tons of nit picky things,” Carter said. 

This can also help you establish the exact steps in the process ahead of you. Different cities can be stricter than others, so understanding how involved the city will want to be in your project is important. 

Cities that are trying to get businesses to come into the city will often be very flexible and relaxed, while already populous cities will often push back. 

Scott Bickley, owner of Little Wolf Auto Repair in Waupaca, Wis., had a very tough time with his Waupaca location. The city fought him every step along the way. However in Anago, Wis., where he recently built, the process was much smoother. The city advised him and even helped pay for the sidewalk. 

Check with them every step of the way.

It may seem tedious and time-consuming, but constantly checking up with the city and making them aware of your progress is going to lead to less issues, Carter said. You don’t want to get to a scenario when you’ve done a ton of work and the city forces you to take it all down because you missed a step. 

Also the more frequently you approach the city, with a positive mindset, the more they will remember you and be willing to work with you. Don’t come to them with your fists clenched demanding things. Have a conversation. There is lots of grey area with different codes and permits. If you’re friendly, they’ll help out, Carter said. 

If you enter the process understanding that there are probably going to be some frustrating hurdles to jump through, that will help the experience. There is no way to overpower the city. You need them to be able to build. So treat them like you would a customer. 

About the Author

Paul Hodowanic

Paul Hodowanic is a staff writer at 10 Missions Media, where he covers Ratchet+Wrench and National Oil and Lube News.