Geoff Trenholme, owner of East Tosa’s soon-to-open Rocket Baby Bakery, got everything he wanted Monday morning, and then some.
The city’s Public Works Board unanimously voted to allow rainwater from the roof of Trenholme‘s building, at 6822 W. North Ave., to continue to flow from the downspout along its existing above-ground route to a city storm sewer in an adjacent city parking lot.
Alan Kesner, board chair and city attorney, also extended an apology to Trenholme for what he described as a “misunderstanding“ with “a very simple solution.”
Kesner said the city’s concern is to ensure that clear water does not enter and burden the city’s sanitary sewer system. The existing rainwater runoff from Trenholme’s roof does not pose that risk, however, and so can continue along its usual route to a city storm sewer until the city redevelops its parking lot adjacent to Trenholme's property.
“We want to work with people and keep these businesses moving forward,” Kesner said. “He’s put his money and his life into this.”
The compromise reached Monday, Kesner said, is “a good opportunity of having a business moving forward.”
Underground rainwater routing to be part of redevelopment project
Trenholme agreed to connect to his drain spout to an underground connection that leads to the city storm sewer when the parking lot at the corner of North 69th Street and West North Avenue is redeveloped. That project likely will be under way soon, said City Administrator Jim Archambo.
“I’m happy to connect when that is made available to us,” Trenholme said.
A brief discussion about who would pay what for that connection followed, and ended with an understanding that those details will be worked out between the city and Trenholme once that aspect of the East Tosa redevelopment plan moves forward.
Board member Paulette Enders, who also is the city’s economic and community development director, brought up the issue, noting that “I don’t like the property owner or the city to be surprised by cost, either way.“
Confusion, inconsistency are concerns
Trenholme told board members he came to them because he was concerned with unclear and perhaps even incorrect information provided to him by city plumbing inspector Steven Presnal. He said Presnal required that he install a new sump pump, which Trenholme did, although he questioned whether that $5,000 expense really was required under city code that notes exceptions for certain existing systems.
Trenholme also questioned his citation for noncompliance with the city‘s stormwater discharge code and the requirement that he connect his downspout to an underground system. Trenholme said he objected, in part, because his reading of City Code does not indicate to him that his building is noncompliant and, in part, because North Avenue has dozens of businesses with the same setup.
“I’m being asked to do something that adds no value to my business or my building,” Trenholme said. “And, if it does apply to me, why doesn’t it apply to everyone?
“I am asking you to set it aside because it doesn’t make sense, and it is not equitable application of the rules.”
Presnal offered to explain the applicable City Code, but Kesner interrupted, saying it wasn’t necessary because the codes can be interpreted differently.
Kesner said later that there are likely thousands of business and residential properties that are not in compliance with city stormwater discharge codes, particularly on the city's east side.
When business and homeowners improve or upgrade their properties, he said, the city then has the opportunity to bring properties into compliance.
Pleased and poised to launch
Trenholme said the stormwater issue, if enforced, could have cost him up to $25,000, or half the working capital he has set aside for his first year of operations. His business plan shows the bakery will operate in the red for the first two years before turning a profit, he said, “so every dollar is precious.”
Trenholme said he was pleased with the board’s decision Monday, and grateful for the city’s support in all other areas of getting his business up and running.
Trenholme received a Community Development Block Grant for $74,250, as well as a $100,000 low-interest loan from the city’s Revolving Loan Fund to help with startup costs for his business. So far, Trenholme estimates he has poured $865,000 into setting up a new neighborhood bakery in East Tosa.
“I am grateful for the city’s support,“ Trenholme said. “The support of the city made a difference between doing what we wanted to do … rather than a stripped-down version.”
With the storm water issue resolved, Trenholme said, the Rocket Baby Bakery is poised to launch as planned. He expects to open the bakery in about two weeks, with a grand opening planned for April 21.