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Paint as protest: Illinois businessman makes a statement

A Fairview Heights, Ill., businessman, protesting what he described as the city's excessive development regulations and lack of financial help, decided to make a statement by visiting the local Lowe’s and asking for the five brightest colors the store had in stock, according to an article in the Belleville News Democrat

Sales associates chose a palette of primary colors typically used in children’s room. Steve Campo, who wants to replace a vacant building with a newly built Snow Cone stand and parking lot, finished the paint job in three hours. He says the brightly striped building represents the obstacles small businesses face in today’s economic and regulatory climate. 

The loud color scheme does not violate any city codes. But adhering to all the city’s requirements for the proposed Tropical Sno project will double the cost of the project to $75,000, he said.

According to Campo, the city first asked for additional landscaping, concrete curbing and premium fencing. Then he was told to put in a water irrigation system for the landscaping -- another $10,000.

That pushed Campo over the edge. He has run a car wash business next door for 26 years. “Can't we water our own plants?” he asked.

Tropical Sno would be located in the city's Lincoln Trail tax increment financing district, which contains a number of vacant stores and abandoned buildings. To bring his new building up to code, Campo applied for financial help from the Lincoln Trail’s “Facade Improvement Program.” That’s when he learned that the Lincoln Trail Redevelopment Plan, which has assets of $955,913 as of April 2011, has remained untouched since its creation.

The Fairview Heights City Administrator told the newspaper that the city is embroiled in several lawsuits with school districts and fire departments over the fund and it would be a “bad business practice” to disperse any money from it until these are settled.