When a business or a commercial property investor is interested in a site within City limits, they tend to check with local government to determine what they must do to move in.

The prospect starts at the City Planning Department with an innocent inquiry. They are asked where they intend to go and what they intend to do. Staff then responds with a litany of requirements, some essential, but most not. To the casual observer and the victims of the assault, it seems like the City tries to find every reason to convince a business or investor not to do business in Klamath Falls.

They often ask a potential business, “You want to move in the industrial area? Are you do going be selling anything to the public?”

If the answer is yes, “Well you can’t move there, you have to find a site in the area zoned commercial.”

If a business finds a commercial zone, they say, “That’s in the parking district, so before we will grant a business license, you will have to pay an annual parking fee per employee.”

“You will also need to pay a $300 site review fee.”

The site review opens more barriers. Once on site, they usually determine the landscaping doesn’t have enough trees, bushes or flowers…the handicapped parking isn’t in the right spot or insufficient…a new emergency exit is needed…or any other of a myriad of seemingly random snipes, such as the need to pave a gravel alleyway, or replace an entire sidewalk because it has cracks in it (usually because of the trees they previously required). They do this even for sites that had the same kind of tenant operating in a location for years. As soon as someone moves, even if within town, City Planning tries to extort the fee and invoke the painful site review process.

This entire process is upside-down.

Rather than finding every reason to send a business running, the City should be trying to remove barriers by making it as easy as possible to move into a location.

The barrier is most evident in the language printed on the business license application form…

“It is a privilege to do business in Klamath Falls.”

NO, NO, NO. It should be a privilege for Klamath Falls to have a new business that will be paying taxes to support local government.

The problem is so bad, property owners and real estate agents have been forced do everything they can to keep prospects from talking to local government, offering to navigate the bureaucracy through them or referring the prospect to a contractor that understands if silly requirements are challenged, they can be alleviated.

When Klamath Falls was thriving in the early 1900s, there was no zoning. There were no business licenses. And frankly, who cares if a retail business wants to move into an industrial area. More power to them if they can make it there. Historically, when light industrial zoning was initiated, it was the area where you could do practically anything you wanted to. It was the noisy, ugly, dirty area where people got things done: the place where the blacksmiths, boot makers, saddle makers, and fabricators made, repaired, and sold their goods.

As more goods were imported, zoning began, and commercial (retail) areas were created to make an environment more suitable to shopping. That worked well until malls came into existence. Retailers flocked to these malls where parking was ample and free, vacating downtown. Now hardly anyone wants to be downtown where regulation is higher and benefits are too few.

Presented with this obvious dilemma, in the early 2000s, the City added more regulations and restrictions downtown. In the downturn, businesses closed and never returned. The City still can’t figure out why the area is vacant, blighted and a magnet for crime and vandalism.

The obvious reaction by any sane entity would be to reduce fees, requirements and overhead downtown. But our government is anything but sane. The City Council, the elected officials that make policy but can’t get involved in administration could easily fix this, but they don’t because the elected people aren’t held accountable through elections. Bud Hart, for example, has been a Council member for over 28 years! New blood might make a difference if only the voters would wake up, demand a reduction in government oversight, and elect new blood with a radical business-friendly agenda.

A new Council comprised of that personality type would take the emergency action the community so desperately needs: simply eliminate the entire City Planning Department. There is nothing that department does the County couldn’t do, or already does. The layer added by City Planning is redundant, costly, repugnant, and flatly wrong.