We have loved living and working in Payson for 26 years. We naively thought that opening our own hairdressing salon would be welcomed by both M'liss's many loyal clients, and the town of Payson.
Never having opened a business establishment, we accidentally put our business cart before the horse -- we started planning our salon on West Phoenix Street without obtaining all the necessary information. When informed that we were going to have to pay double fines because we hadn't obtained proper permits, we willingly paid. We understood when we paid those fines that we had been informed of all requirements necessary to obtain our business license.
The Wednesday before our Sept. 6 scheduled opening, the Building Department called and said our parking was not up to "necessary standards" -- even though it had been fine for the previous tenant. They said that seven out of the 14 parking places in front had to be eliminated because "cars are bigger now," and that we have to pave the rear employee parking lot -- although it has been a dirt lot since 1984. The previous tenants used it for parking, with no challenge from the town.
In addition, they said we had to hire an engineer to survey the lot before it was paved, the engineer's report had to be submitted for approval, and an approved retention pond had to be built to hold water created by paving the lot.
All of these sudden, last-minute demands would cost us $10,000 to $15,000. We had already spent about $20,000 getting to this point.
We decided against opening a business in the red. Instead, we accepted our loss, and have decided to leave Payson. We have heard many similar horror stories from other small, local business owners about how the town had blind-sided them with last-minute costly requirements.
The town doesn't seem to require government buildings to comply with the standards it enforces on private business. For example, at Payson Town Hall, both the Payson Water Department and the Police Department park vehicles behind their buildings in dirt lots with no retention ponds. They lay out the red carpet for Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Chaparral Pines, but the small-business owner is prey for arbitrary, unreasonable and expensive demands.
Meanwhile, we're leaving town to lose this bad taste in our mouths. We don't know when, or if, we'll be back, but we'll be telling anyone who will listen about the unethical way we, and other small businesses, have been treated by the town bureaucrats in Payson, Arizona.
Michael and M'liss Scarratt, Payson