Wyandotte Business Owners Want City to Refund Them $10,000
A city ordinance requiring a shower at a shop performing massages is proving to be painful to some.
The owners of Total Health Foods have a $10,000 question for city officials.
Why were they forced to install a shower in order to provide massage services at their facility when it opened a year ago, but new businesses opening now no longer have to do so?
The women said it's unfair and are asking to be reimbursed the $10,000 it cost them to install the shower, which they say has never been used.
“We’re disappointed," said Janette Crossman, one of three owners. "We’re angry. ... There is a lot of cost involved."
When Total Health Foods opened in Wyandotte, a city ordinance required businesses wanting to perform massages to have a tub or shower. Crossman said it was never explained to them why, but they reluctantly agreed to the stipulation because they wanted to open a business in Wyandotte.
"We looked at it as an investment," she said. "We had no idea at the beginning, it would cost us a total of $10,000, but we knew it assured us our spot as massage specialists in Wyandotte."
Crossman said she was "shocked and stunned" when she learned that city officials amended the city ordinance on Feb. 13 and took out the provision for a shower.
Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby-Fricke led the charge to change the ordinance, saying several business people wanted to open shops in Wyandotte, but complained that the ordinance was overly restrictive.
Crossman said it's great that city leaders were willing to accommodate the wishes of those new business owners, but questioned why that same consideration wasn't given to her company when they opened. Back then, Crossman said, the city enforced the ordinance so strictly that a city inspector nearly kept them from opening because the shower lip was an inch or so too high.
“It’s not a secret," she said. "Everyone’s laughing about it. … It’s a joke.”
Crossman said she has an easy solution for city officials.
“Give us back our $10,000 ... or make them put their shower in and we’ll be happy," she said.
Some city officials, however, are saying that Crossman isn't truly out $10,000 as her business received a $5,000 grant from the city's Downtown Development Authority when it moved from Southgate to Wyandotte in 2010.
To substantiate having spent the $5,000, the owners had to submit receipts showing how the money was spent. The receipts turned in were shower-related, leading some officials to question why reimbursement is now being sought.
Crossman said she offered to turn in any number of receipts to show how the $5,000 was used, but that the former city employee who was handling the grant program back then said any receipt would do.
"I turned in the shower receipt because that’s what was handy," she said. "We didn’t come down here and ask for a grant for a shower. … It was to build our future here in Wyandottte.”
Mayor Joseph Peterson backed up Crossman, saying the grant program used to have "so many loopholes" but that the true purpose of the $5,000 grant was for moving expenses.
“That was a push to bring new businesses in," Peterson said.
City Attorney William Look said city officials are within their right to amend city ordinances from time to time. In a letter to city officials, he is recommending that the request for reimbursement be denied.
"I am not aware of any legal authority which would permit the city, through the use of its general funds, to reimburse a business for work done to their property even if said work was a requirement to obtain a license," he wrote.
Instead, Look is recommending that the business owners approach the city's Downtown Development Authority to see if they are interested in repaying the money as a way to "improve the viability of businesses within the district."
Annette Crossman, who co-owns Total Health Foods, said she's not concerned where the money comes from, but said her business is deserving of reimbursement.
"We just want to be a part of Wyandotte," she said.
The issue is set to be discussed at Monday night's 7 p.m. council meeting. If the matter is referred to the DDA, that board meets at 5:30 p.m. April 10. Both meetings take place in the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall.