Officials Support License Proposal

— It was under the banner of health and safety that Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s office moved forward with a proposal to launch a business license and registry program in Fayetteville.

“Every year, the city has had businesses that open without having a fire inspection,” Karen Minkel, Fayetteville director of strategic planning and internal consulting, pointed out to the City Council on Tuesday.

It marked the first time the proposal, which would require most businesses to register with the city, was heard by the full City Council.

“We feel like this will be a vehicle to use to capture those businesses and do an inspection,” said Terry Lawson, city fire marshal.

A business license on file with the city means emergency officials can make contact almost immediately with business operators during emergencies such as fire or burglary, said Police Chief Greg Tabor.

“The quicker we can identify that representative and get him to the business, the safer it is for that officer,” Tabor told the council.

Today, if an office building is burglarized, dispatchers launch a series of often futile searches to locate the correct officials. At best, it’s inefficient, Tabor said.

The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce also praised the proposal for the reams of market and other data a business registry program naturally provides organizations such as chambers of commerce.

“That helps us plan for what kinds of businesses we want in our city and what businesses we want to recruit,” said Steve Clark, chamber president.

No one spoke in opposition to the proposal. The council left the business license ordinance on the second reading to give opportunities for feedback at future meetings.

If passed, Fayetteville would join the ranks of Springdale, Rogers, Lowell, Fort Smith, Siloam Springs, Benton, Cabot, Jacksonville, Hot Springs, North Little Rock, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Sherwood and Eureka Springs which all require business licenses, according to city documents. Fayetteville is reported to be he only city in Arkansas with a population of more than 50,000 people that does not have a business registry program.

Business license fees are proposed at $35 for manually filed paper applications and $32 for their electronic counterparts. Small, home office businesses would pay $22 for the manual application and $20 for the online application, according to a draft of the ordinance. License renewal fees would be $15 for everyone. If passed, the plan would take effect Jan. 3.

Failure to participate could result in additional fees being added. If a license is revoked the business could face a $250 a day fine by the city. Revocation could occur if it’s determined that the business is a fire hazard, has violated state or federal laws, fails to pay hotel-motel-restaurant taxes, among other violations.

Religious institutions, businesses operated by minors and landlords with fewer than three rental units would be exempt from the program.

The mayor’s staff began researching the idea of enacting a business license ordinance in March. The proposal went through a series of hearings with the council’s ordinance review committee and other groups.

In April the ordinance review committee voted unanimously to forward the issue on to the full council, but without a recommendation for or against the measure.

“It will save time and money if we have this business license,” said Shirley Lucas, a councilwoman from Ward 4, and a steady supporter Fayetteville adopting the program.