Charlotte business owners calling permit delays 'bureaucratic nightmare'

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Business owners are fed up with how long it takes to open up shop in Charlotte.

They say it a bureaucratic nightmare that is costing the city jobs and money.

Some Mecklenburg County leaders told Channel 9 they agree.

Channel 9 reporter Jim Bradley talked to one entrepreneur who said he faced six months of delays until Eyewitness News began investigation.

County leaders said they are simply hearing too many complaints around town about delays in the permitting process.

The county manager told Bradley she is putting together a plan to fix it.

Steve Taylor wants to make hamburgers but said another food has come to mind while trying to get city and county approval to open a restaurant.

“It feels like bureaucratic molasses,” Taylor said.

Taylor said when he signed a lease last September he thought he would be open, with 40 employees, by the end of the year.

Instead, he has spent six months answering questions about parking, where he’ll put trash and agreeing to plant trees to buffer nearby apartments.

“We’re minimizing the creation of jobs, slowing down progress. Again, this is the worst experience we’ve ever been through in 15 restaurants we’ve built,” Taylor said.

County leaders said those kinds of complaints are costing Charlotte jobs and tax revenue.

“There are a lot of developers who say 'I’m done with Mecklenburg County.  We're going to really have to rise to the occasion. We're going to have to do better,” said County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

New County Manager Dena Diorio said she is asking her staff to come up with an immediate plan to streamline the permitting process.

“If it’s taking too long and its complicated and convoluted then there's got to be a better way and we're going to find the better way,” Diorio said.

For Taylor, just days after Channel 9 started asking the city and county about his permit delays, he got the final OK to move ahead with his Smashburger franchise.

“Thank you for helping. (At) 5 p.m. we got clearance, we got our permits. City planning was the last sign off,” Taylor said.

Diorio said she will present a plan to address permitting delays at next week's county commission meeting.

In the meantime, Taylor said the delays he experienced will cost him.
          
He has to start paying rent in May, but his late start will keep his restaurant from opening until June.