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Rocklin moves to spark business

council approves new ordinances to make doing business in city cheaper
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The City of Rocklin hopes some new business friendly measures will help propel the city out of the struggling economic recovery. Rocklin's new Business Attraction Retention and Revitalization Overlay (BARRO) Zone, approved in a second reading during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, is designed to attract, retain and revitalize businesses and improve facades/streetscapes in the older parts of the city. "The city council has a very strong desire to develop a downtown area," Rocklin Community Development Director Sherri Abbas told council members at their July 24 meeting. "The BARRO zone is tailored to a specific area. It is designed to accommodate development or modifications." The area targeted is commercial properties fronting Pacific Street and Rocklin Road in the historic district with some minor extensions northwest on Sunset Boulevard from Pacific Street to South Whitney. Abbas said the zone will give these businesses a break on the current process. "It could be cumbersome and expensive and, therefore, somewhat of a deterrent to having actual redevelopment in that area happen," Abbas said. The zone will potentially eliminate the required $9,888 design fee by capping fees for smaller projects and allowing city staff to approve some processes without a public hearing. The new zone will also be aided by grants offered to businesses in this area. Later this month the city will award nearly $50,000 to business owners through the Central Rocklin Area (CRA) Façade, Revitalization & Accessibility Grant Program. The purpose of the program is to give struggling downtown businesses funds to do facelifts on their properties. On Tuesday the council approved another extension of the relaxed sign ordinance. "We needed to do something to help assist our businesses and efforts to stay viable during these economic times," Abbas told the council. The program is aimed at relaxing the commercial sign ordinance to allow A-frames, banners and other temporary signs not normally allowed in the city because city officials reported to council there are "many new and struggling businesses in the city." City Council member Scott Yuill initially had reservations after seeing temporary signs around town that had not aged well since the council relaxed the rules in 2009. "From my personal observation, however, several banners that have been up for a long time are tattered. As a business owner myself, I'd be concerned that unsightly banners may detract from business," Yuill said. Even so, he believes the relaxed rules are helping Rocklin businesses in a struggling economy. "There's really no practical way to scientifically quantify its success, but the businesses owners I've spoken to state they can see a difference," Yuill said. In June, the city reformed business license taxes to help spur growth and avoid penalizing larger firms. The measure is expected to decrease the tax by 20 percent for the contractor, subcontractor, gross receipts and manufacturing tax categories effective July 1. The city has also produced a smart phone application that will people find Rocklin businesses as well as a series of virtual tour videos showcasing highlights of the city’s services and amenities. The changes may already be working as city officials report sales taxes have begun to stabilize and some Rocklin firms, like Icing on the Cupcake LLC and Stuart James Construction, Inc., have reported triple digit revenue growth since 2009. Developer Donahue Schriber is investing $19 million in infrastructure associated with the first of nearly one million square feet of retail development scheduled to open by 2014 at Interstate 80 and Sierra College Boulevard.