College Place Council discusses business registration plan

The measure was sent back to staff for more work. It would create a registry of businesses operating in the city.

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COLLEGE PLACE -- Although no one stepped forward to comment on a proposed business registration plan Monday, City Council members had plenty to say about the idea.

Council members debated the draft ordinance at length, but took no formal action on the matter. The measure was referred back to city staff for further work on its language to address concerns raised during the discussion.

Operated in partnership with the state Department of Licensing, the master licensing service would create a registry of businesses operating in the city. It would also give businesses a single-stop method to take care of city and state licensing needs, said Pat Reay, city administrator.

The idea is not to add a new fee, Reay said, but provide a way for a person to "be able to know what all applicable fees are up front and not have to hunt and peck through the various codes," he said during the discussion.

Kathy Bowman, city community development director, said discussion of the master licensing service started last summer and was the subject of a presentation by John Jacob of the DOL at the Council's Sept. 27 meeting. Council members held a workshop on the plan in February and the city Planning Commission has had two workshops on it as well. The draft was also posted on the city's website.

However, Council member Larry Dickerson expressed dissatisfaction with whether business owners are aware of the proposal. "The very fact there's no comment indicates there's no communication," he said.

But Reay said the College Place Business Association has passed a resolution calling for the council to approve the idea and "most businesses were surprised we don't have a registration system."

At the earlier workshop, Bowman said that along with being able to keep track of what businesses are operating in the city, a master registry would provide emergency workers knowledge of hazardous materials or conditions, ensure compliance with zoning laws and give city officials local contact information for businesses.

But how the proposed ordinance would define a business, as opposed to a hobby, and who would have to register, came under extended discussion by Council members. The usual dividing line is when the activity becomes a livelihood, Reay said.

Council member William Jenkins said the idea of the ordinance was "not to police the community 100 percent for compliance (with ordinances), but just to keep track of what businesses we have."

Another issue of debate was whether businesses delivering "goods or services" within the city would be subject to registration. "So if a carpet cleaner comes in here and cleans your carpet, would they have to have a permit?" Dickerson asked.

As the discussion drew towards an end, Reay asked Council members to relay their concerns with the ordinance to Bowman so she could incorporate suggested changes into the document.

"This will come back as a final recommendation only when the Council is satisfied with what is proposed," she said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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