Comment 48687

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 03, 2010 at 14:49:13

Because I believe so strongly in our city, I found it an absolute shame that it did not have a backpacker's hostel to offer affordable accommodations to travellers.

I assumed that others' belief in Hamilton was so weak that nobody else thought that such an idea would fly. But my love for Hamilton told me that there was so much to see and do here, especially in relation to nature and outdoor activities, that a Hostel would do very well - even if marketing was targeted only to regional travellers. So my partner and I decided we would open a small backpacker's hostel downtown (I mean, where else, right?)

I guess our first problem was not understanding exactly how impossible it would be to deal with the city in attempting to open a small business.

Asking off-the-record questions and gathering basic information was not too bad, depending on your luck in finding a contact willing to listen and answer. But when it came to the nitty gritty, the nightmares began.

Rather than offering any assistance in interpreting the bylaws, any requests usually resulted in receipt of a pdf copy of bylaws which "might" be relevant (it's up to you to figure it out for yourself). I understand that the entrepreneur has the ultimate responsibility in analyzing the bylaws and ensuring compliance, but a city that is truly "open for business" should be dedicated to assisting with establishment of businesses small and large. We were not looking for hand holding, but it would have been nice to even be pointed in the right direction.

In time we determined that there are actually no bylaws currently on the books that account for hostels - because when the bylaws were written (60 years ago?), the concept of a backpacker's hostel either didn't exist or was too "fringe" to be considered.

For crying out loud, we still have bylaws which govern "parking" of horses.

So we decided the closest applicable laws were the B&B bylaws. We started down that path, determined what all of the requirements were (including parking which would be a show-stopper for almost any downtown accommodations business) and contacted the city about the most efficient order in which to apply for various permits.

We were told we had to wait because "the bylaws are being rewritten so we don't want to accept and process applications and then have the laws change in the middle of the process". Logical, right? So we waited. A month. Two months. Six months. A year. This was three years ago and as far as I know, they are STILL not accepting applications. I haven't checked because we gave up after the first few months. We got jobs. We moved on.

How many more stories like ours are out there? It's easy to discount those who tried and failed as "not being aware of the process", but how many enterprises never even get past the planning stage because of the extreme bureaucracy roadblock?

What a sad, sorry state of affairs this city is in...

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