U.S. small business advocate speaks at Milligan

Local zoning regs. should be flexible

By Julie Fann
star staff

   Local, home-based businesses function best under flexible zoning regulations, said the U.S. Small Business Administration's Fifth Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Thomas M. Sullivan, who held a question-and-answer session with Milligan College students and community leaders Thursday afternoon.
   Appointed by President Bush to serve as chief of the Office of Advocacy of the SBA in September 2000, Sullivan's findings are the result of a detailed study released just two weeks ago that prompted a New Jersey state legislator to introduce a law to protect flexible zoning laws for home-based businesses.
   "On the local level, we have found that zoning regulations hurt home-based businesses because many of the regulations are complicated to understand and stifling," said Sullivan, who was appointed by President Bush to serve as SBA chief in September 2000. "Zoning regulations with a one-size-fits-all mentality, or prescriptive zoning regulations under, 'thou shalt not', with a whole list of things following, don't work."
   Sullivan said zoning ordinances that are flexible yet focused on maintaining the integrity of the community by avoiding pollution, excessive traffic, and extensive construction like warehouses attached to homes, make it easier to operate a business out of a home within a residential community.
   "This is a classic example where you have research in the hands of policy-makers that affect government outcomes. We need more of that. In order to make that happen, we need more folks researching how entrepreneurship affects the local economy," Sullivan said.
   Sullivan holds a law degree from Suffolk University in Boston, Mass. and is admitted to both the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the U.S. Department of Justice.
   The topic of flexible zoning laws could spark debate among Carter County leaders and the voting public who are still up-in-arms over the recent passing of a county-wide zoning ordinance that, to many of them, is lengthy, incomprehensible, and nothing more than an effort to take money away from citizens and put it in the pockets of those in power. Local residents feel county commissioners have failed to fully educate them about the ordinance or allow them the opportunity to cast a vote, therefore violating their basic rights as Americans.
   The U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy was created in 1976, and Sullivan is charged with independently advancing the views, concerns and interests of small business before Congress, the White House, federal regulatory bodies and state policy-makers.
   Sullivan works with a 37-member staff made up of attorneys, economists, and those who translate for them. The office has regional representatives across the country.