Red Tape Delays exhālō Spa Expansion Plans

One of Barrhaven’s most successful small business owners has had a roadblock thrown at her plans to grow and expand.

Tanya Farlinger, owner of exhālō Spa. was planning on expanding into a new location this year. Farlinger’s plans, however, have been sucked into a financial abyss that has left her wondering what she should do next.

Farlinger bought one of five properties in the Woodroffe and Deerfox Ave. that is un-serviced. After a year of working on the deal, doing her due diligence, and crossing every T and dotting every I, she learned in December that her plans have been put on hold due to a city moratorium. Not only will Farlinger may have to wait until at least the end of 2024 to move her business into the building she paid top dollar for last June, but getting servicing to the property may cost her and her neighbouring properties as much as $1 million.

“We were hoping to be open in the new location by Christmas, 2022,” Farlinger said. “Now, I am not sure what to do next. I don’t know what my options are, if I even have any.”

A web of red tape and unforeseen road blocks have exhālō Spa’s plans for expansion on hold.

Farlinger had been looking at the property for several months before the deal closed. She then spent $80,000 on architectural fees and $50,000 on city fees and required services. What she did not know was that there was a moratorium in place on any work on Stoneway Ave. until the end of 2024. City planners were seemingly also unaware.  In order to bring servicing to the five properties, construction would have to take place on Woodroffe to have the necessary pipelines under the busy road.

Now, she is stuck carrying the mortgage of the new property and is unable to move her business. The lease that exhālō has at the RioCan Marketplace runs out in one year. Farlinger said her rent has gone up by $2,000 a month over the last five years. Her only choice at the moment is to re-sign with a lease that has an increasing sliding scale. She purchased the property at Woodroffe and Deerfox to get away from paying high rental fees. Barrhaven’s commercial rental rates are now among the highest in the City of Ottawa.

“To think I purchased a multi-zoned commercial use property last year to expand exhālō seems like a joke now,” Farlinger said.

The costs of the new building go beyond the mortgage. Increasing interest rates are hitting Farlinger hard. She adds that commercial mortgage rates are higher than residential mortgage rates.

“I’ve been paying a hefty commercial mortgage and commercial vacancy insurance for seven months now,” she said. “This property is still deemed Residential in every-way until the city allows me to connect to a currently unavailable water supply. This is because select few properties have a former H or hold on commercial use, even though they are zoned for commercial.  This was set up to protect the then residential neighbourhood. I was aware of the connection of city services required, but I was not aware of the extensive city processes to take over an entire year, and to then be surprised by a moratorium on road construction of any kind.”

Farlinger has been working extensively with her realtor, Jason MacDonald, who is also the Chair of the Barrhaven BIA. Former Councillor Jan Harder has been working diligently to help her, and she is also getting assistance from Barrhaven East Councillor Wilson Lo and his staff. Ottawa Board of Trade Executive Director Sueling Ching is currently drafting a letter of support to the city.

Farlinger is not alone, as exhālō is one of three business tangled in the city’s web of red tape.

“My small business, along with a local dentist office and small developer are now being held up for two years,” she said.  “Dealing with Ottawa city planning services has been one of the worst experiences of my life, and that is coming from a strong, female business owner, who opened her second location in Kanata in 2020 during the pandemic.”