Business asks for reimbursement after ordinance change

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Local business owners are steamed up about costs they incurred to comply with a recently-repealed ordinance requiring showers in establishments that offer massage.

Owners of Total Health Foods, 2938 Biddle, came before the city council Monday to request $10,000 for costs they incurred before their November 2010 opening to install a shower in their store, which offers massage and other services, to comply with the 50-year-old ordinance revised in February to eliminate the need to showers.

The business has never used the shower for a massage and as it rents its building, it must remove it if it decides to change locations.

“We’re disappointed,” said Jeanette Coleman, who owns the business along with twin sister, Annette, and Kathleen Gunther. “We’re angry, there’s a lot of cost involved and a lot of loss involved. We’re not millionaires down here, we’re just building our business and making it happen.”

But some councilors pointed to a $5,000 grant the business was given by the Downtown Development Authority when it moved to the city from Southgate in 2010. At the time, the grants were offered to businesses moving into the city and had few stipulations and no application deadlines.

Disagreement exists among the council and with the women about a receipt presented to former DDA director Brandon Wescott at the time of the grant. Some see it as proof that the grant paid for the shower, while the owners say it was the only receipt Wescott asked for and they offered to supply others for relocation expenses.

“Thank you for the grant, we appreciate it,” Jeanette Coleman said. “But it wasn’t to put a shower in, it was to build our future in Wyandotte.”

DDA Director Natalie Rankine agreed that the former terms of the grants were vague and that they have been tightened several times and are scheduled to be reviewed again in April and will continue to be edited “until we get it right.”

The women also asked that as an alternative to a refund, the council require 3152 Studio, who wrote the letter requesting the ordinance change, to comply with the original ordinance.

Councilwoman Sherri Sutherby Fricke said that the council reconsidered the ordinance after complaints from many massage ordinance, not just 3152 Studio.

“I’m not sure this was the right thing to do when we approved this ordinance,” Councilman Daniel Galeski said. “But it is what it is.”

The matter is to be referred to the department of legal affairs for review.