Krissie Penney has operated The Lila Center upstairs at 300 Main St. (the building with the turret at the corner of Main and Brown streets) for approximately 18 months. The facility offers yoga, belly dancing, salsa, soma and zumba dancing, boot camps, acupuncture, massage therapy and reflexology.
Conditions have been difficult in the rented building, she says, with leaking windows, material dropping from the ceiling and high heating costs.
Penney arranged to move into, and perhaps eventually buy, the building at 350 Main St., the former Home Sweet Home Benjamin Moore store, which was owned by her aunt.
She says her aunt took impeccable care of the store and did many renovations to the structure, which dates back at least a century.
“There have been renovations on top of renovations,” she says.
Penney applied for the permits required and, after receiving approval, began crack-filling, painting and replacing sections of the floor.
Three weeks before the anticipated opening date, she received word from the town that a fire-rated door was required at the top of the stairs and another for the furnace room, which must also be fireproofed. The approximate cost for those renovations is $3,000 to $4,000.
“It’s ridiculous that they expect us to come up with that amount of money,” she says.
She questions why the town didn’t require improvements at her old location and is upset by the need and cost to add the fireproofing when the previous occupant didn’t require it.
Chris Churchill, the building inspector for the Town of Yarmouth, says he cannot comment on individual cases. Instead, he explains the process for relocating a business to another building.
“If someone is moving, there is an investigation to see what was/is there. The event provides an opportunity for the building to be improved and to examine it,” he says.
“We don’t know what’s in all those buildings in town because they’ve been built over hundreds of years. If we can start finding out information about some of them, then it’s not so hard for the next person. We’ll have a record.”
Buildings are slotted into 13 classifications, each with different building code requirements. Some of these can be very extensive.
A wellness centre is classified as belonging to Group A or D.
The last business at 350 Main St. was categorized as being in Group E (retail), resulting in a “change in use” designation for Penney’s purposes.
Penney thinks there is something flawed with the process.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that if we were going in there selling product we wouldn’t have to do these things. There should be a law in place for existing buildings,” she says.
But Churchill says if there is a change in use then the building code applies.
“If there are safety issues then they have to be in keeping with the National Building Codes and Fire Safety Act. That’s why in the beginning we ask for as much information as possible,” he says.
The building regulations/requirements address safety issues and provide guidance for structural integrity.
Although older dwellings may have some sort of fire escape route, modern building regulations are designed to provide enough time for people to get out safely.
Each building classification has different fire separation requirements and the type of business on the other side of the walls is considered in the requirements.
Penney says she was also told she must hire a contractor to provide an estimate in order to determine the fee for the building permit.
The town says building permits are charged by one of two methods. All permits are $10 base price plus either the area cost or cost of construction.
These fees are: $10/$1,000 for construction fees or 10 cents per square foot for residential and 20 cents per square foot for commercial.
Churchill selects the rate he believes will be least expensive. An occupancy permit ($25) is additional.
Penney says that despite the obstacles she is still going ahead with her plans. She estimates her business draws 700 to 800 client visits each month and that everyone is excited to move to the new location. She says she needs to relocate.
“We have waterfalls coming through the windows where we are now,” she says. “Last winter we spent all of our income on oil. We might as well have been pumping heat out into the street.”