When owners of a longtime western Placer County dance studio set out to replace their converted garage space with a larger stand-alone facility on their rural property, they’d hoped the process would be like jitterbug.
What they experienced, however, was more like a long, slow bureaucratic waltz in 2 inches of mud. Unforeseen county requirements delayed the completion by three years and cost the couple $250,000 more than the original $235,000 price tag.
But on Nov.1, The Dance Gallery 2 owners plan to celebrate a grand opening at their Baseline Road property.
“The idea was to move the studio so Doug and I would have a house proper,” said Lucy McLemore, referring to her husband and business partner. Over their 23 years of operation among the open fields and cow pastures near the Sacramento/Placer county border, the dancers and staff had become like family.
Occasionally, Lucy McLemore said she would find dance instructors sharing a meal and the sofa with her husband as he watched television in the living room. And people would sometimes open their front door – which leads to the kitchen – as if it were a traditional business entrance.
Still, on the whole, Ms. Lucy, as she is affectionately called by most people, said she loved her garage studio. But the new studio would increase their capacity and, by using the existing studio along with it, would allow them to replicate their performance space at Mesa Verde High School in Citrus Heights.
The couple began the project in 2011, with the understanding from the county that as an existing business, they wouldn’t be subject to new zoning rules. But they soon discovered otherwise. At one turn and then the next, the McLemores – aided by loyal students, instructors and parents – found themselves fighting local, state and federal rules. The requirements included funding and building a turn lane, securing a zoning waiver and improving the water and plumbing system.
One set of rules said a sidewalk would have to extend from their two handicapped parking spaces to Baseline Road. The McLemores pushed back, asking what a wheelchair would do once it reached the end of the two-lane sidewalk and bus stop-free Baseline Road.
The new facility has been more or less complete for three years, but it went unused while the couple jumped though one hoop and then the next. The turn lane alone cost $200,000. Doug McLemore, who in addition to providing technical support for shows, has a separate videography business, said they only briefly considered moving into a commercial corridor.
Doug McLemore said their location, surrounded by fields, was part of its appeal. He said parents appreciate the safe environment and rustic views.
Despite the obstacles, loss time and extra cost, the McLemores have no ill will toward the county. They said they’ve been visited by several county supervisors, who, along with county staff, became their advocates. County officials did not respond to requests for comment about why the business was apparently given incorrect information initially.
“The county has been real good at helping us achieve our goal,” Lucy McLemore said. “We never really had any opposition. My take is nobody knew what to do with us.”