Racine's offering of a variety of business licenses

The following development glossary was created to serve as a guide to define some of the some common vocabulary that you may hear while working with the city and other partners on your project. In addition, a brief list of city departments, committees and commissions has been included to help identify where certain proposals may go for review and approval. Finally, a list of a few of the common acronyms you may encounter when working on your project are at the end of the page.

Development Glossary

Application: The process by which an applicant submits a request for a permit or an action by a department, committee or the Common Council. A complete application includes written documentation and any applicable fees, which allows city staff to review and process the request resulting in an approval, conditional approval or denial of the request.

Assessed Value: The value placed on real property parcels and taxable personal property. This value is based on formulas that distribute the municipality’s tax burden among individual property owners in the city. The Assessor’s Office can assist you in understanding how properties are assessed.

Brownfield: A property containing issues such as contamination or hazardous substances, which may impact its reuse or redevelopment. Remediation may be necessary before reuse of the property can occur.

Building Code: A collection of regulations stating specifications for the design and construction of buildings and related structures. The State of Wisconsin establishes the building code that is utilized throughout the state, and the city enforces it.

Building Permit: A document issued by the building official before a building or other structure may be constructed, expanded, remodeled, converted, reconstructed or altered. It is also issue before electrical, plumbing, structural or mechanical work commences. Plans are submitted to the city, or in some cases the state, for review for compliance with current building codes.

Business Improvement District (BID): A BID is an area of the city where property owners pay an additional assessment to fund such things as neighborhood improvements, security, business grant programs, infrastructure improvements, events and marketing efforts.

Business Plan: A written document describing the projected financial feasibility and operational aspects of a business. Having a detailed business plan can assist you in obtaining financing and grants.

Certificate of Occupancy: Written approval issued by the Building Inspections Department certifying that the occupancy or use of a building is in compliance with all building codes and the Zoning Ordinance. This includes ensuring that the building meets all current codes and that the zoning of the property allows the proposed use and meets criteria related to parking, loading, landscaping and other requirements that may apply.

Code enforcement: The process of investigating, identifying and requiring the correction of violations of ordinances or codes. Code enforcement generally focuses on zoning ordinance, building code, health and sanitation codes, or fire code violations. The primary goal is the correction of any identified violations so that the property can be utilized safely and legally.

Comprehensive Plan: The document adopted by the Common Council that defines goals and policies related to the city’s physical, social and economic development. This document guides the city’s land use decisions and is created through an extensive public participation process.

Concept Plan: A basic drawing that displays the proposed location of various building or site aspects for a proposed development project.

Conditional Use Permit: A permit granted by the Common Council for certain land uses, indicating that the proposed use of a property will be in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance and any conditions set forth by city staff, the Plan Commission and the Common Council.

Design Review Districts: Certain areas of the city have been designated as design corridors where exterior changes to a building or the installation of new signage requires review and approval by committees and/or the Common Council. Staff in the Department of City Development can assist you in these processes.

Entrepreneur: A person who starts a business – often in a new field or area and often associated with financial risk.

Fees: Payments made to the city or other agencies associated with reviewing and processing applications/permits/processes/plan review/licenses/etc.

Financial Statements: Reports or summaries used to analyze a business’ financial situation.

Grant Program: There are a number of grant programs that may be available to help fund business expenses. These are administered by various entities and often require that detailed information about the applicant and the business operation be submitted as part of the application. Many grants have application deadlines attached to them. Some city grant programs are: façade grants and REC fee grants. Other agencies administer additional grant programs.

License: A license is a form of written permission that is granted by a governing body that may include the city, state or federal government. A license generally has conditions that must be followed and often requires that an applicant provide detailed information regarding operations, background information and/or financial information.

Rezoning: A formal process to change the land use classification of a parcel to allow uses other than what the current zoning classification allows.

Tax Increment District/Tax Increment Financing (TID/TIF): A Tax Increment District is a specific geographic area where the additional property tax value generated by redevelopment and new investments in the district is used to fund (Tax Increment Financing) incentives for reinvestment within the TID.

Zoning: The classification of land into zones which specifies allowable land uses; setback and dimensional standards of construction, such as building height, distance a building must be set back from property lines and lot coverage; parking requirements and other improvements such as signage, lighting and landscaping.

City Departments-Committees-Commissions

Departments, committees and commissions have varying roles and duties. Although this is not a complete listing of all of the departments and committees, the following are the ones that business owners are most likely to work with:

Assessor: Appraises all general property in the City of Racine to establish the city’s portion of the property tax assessment bill.

Building Division: Responsible for the administration and enforcement of the city and state building, heating, plumbing, electrical and zoning codes.

City Clerk: Serves as the official records custodian for city government and is responsible for the issuance of approximately 50 different types of licenses. The Clerk & Treasurer’s Office is also responsible for all elections and the collection of tax payments in the City of Racine.

City Development: Responsible for planning and redevelopment, economic development, housing, building inspections, fair housing and Community Development Block Grant Administration.

Common Council: The Common Council, the legislative branch, is made up of 15 aldermen, one elected from each district in the city. The council enacts local ordinances and approves the city budget. Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted each November. The council takes official action through the passage of ordinances and resolutions.

Fire Department: In addition to emergency response services, the department inspects commercial properties for compliance with fire codes.

Health Department: Issues food licenses, conducts inspections, administers weights, measures verification and provides public health services.

Planning, Heritage and Design Commission: Makes decisions regarding land use, heritage preservation and design review in the city. The Commission forwards recommendations to the Common Council for a final decision to approve or deny a request

.Public Safety and Licensing Committee: Reviews and makes decisions regarding liquor licenses, second hand dealer licenses and other specific licensing issues.

Public Works: Public Works is responsible for a number of duties related to operating and maintaining public infrastructure ranging from civil engineering, traffic and transit issues, storm water management review, street maintenance and waste and recycling collection.

Water Department: Responsible for providing water service through public facilities to the greater Racine area.

Wastewater Department: Responsible for waste water treatment thorough public facilities to the greater Racine area.

Agency Acronyms

CDA – Community Development Authority of the City of Racine

CDBG – Community Development Block Grant

DNR – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

DSPS – Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

EPA – Environmental Protection Agency

RCEDC – Racine County Economic Development Corporation

SBA – Small Business Administration

WEDC – Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

WDOR – Wisconsin Department of Revenue

WDOT – Wisconsin Department of Transportation

WHEDA – Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Association