Council OKs License Program

BUSINESS DATA WILL BE COMPILED

— The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce will have an impressive new net to gather reams of economic development data in the future.

The City Council approved an ordinance putting in place a business license and registry program which will collect business marketing and demographic information as well as health and safety data for most businesses in Fayetteville.

“A lot of people had input into this,” said Shirley Lucas, an alderwoman from Ward 4, and who has supported the ordinance since it’s original draft.

But the move was not a slam-dunk for the Mayor Lioneld Jordan administration. It squeaked by on a 6-2 vote. The ordinance needed six affirmative votes to pass because the program could be viewed as a tax, said Kit Williams, city attorney. Jordan was prohibited from voting.

Council members Kyle Cook and Bobby Ferrell voted against the ordinance.

Cook said his decision wavered nearly until the vote was called. But ultimately, was concerned about adding city services without adding any personnel.

“Right now, it’s not a problem, but it could be in the future,” Cook said.

AT A GLANCE

Fayetteville Business License Annual Costs

$35 for manually filed paper applications, and $32 for their electronically filed counterparts.

Small, home office businesses would pay $22 for the manual application or $20 for filing it online.

License renewal fees will $15 for everyone.

Source: Staff Report

Ferrell, who has described himself as in favor of “limited government,” saw the program’s fees as a tax increase, which he opposes.

“When I ran for this office, I said I would not vote to raise taxes unless it was for roads,” Ferrell said after the meeting. “And I’ve stayed consistent.”

“Often times, the camel gets its nose under the tent and it’s always for public safety or kids,” Ferrell said, recalling the familiar analogy of the camel as government poking its nose too far into private affairs. “And this time it was for public safety.”

Aaron Stahl, who operates P3 Waste Consulting in Fayetteville, has been a staunch opponent of the business license idea. Speaking after the vote, Stahl said he intends to take his business out of Fayetteville.

“My goal here tonight is not to offer any amendments,” Stahl told the council. “It’s simply to kill it.”

The chamber remained firm in its support of the ordinance.

“For us to do our job, to do economic development, to grow Fayetteville, we need information that is particular to economic development,” Chung Tan, the chamber’s economic development manager, told the council.

The ordinance goes into effect Sept. 1, 2011, with businesses having until Oct. 31. 2011, to sign up. Brenda Thiel, a coucilwoman from Ward 1, had concern the fines for noncompliance are too strict and may not take into consideration some businesses are unaware of the ordinance.

“I think it’s going to be a real problem getting everyone to comply,” Thiel said. “And I’m concerned about the fees and fines, if only because there’s people out there who don’t even know they need to apply.”

City officials said levying the $250 a day fine for noncompliance would only be used as a final enforcement tool.

“The goal is you have those (fines) to use as a tool for those that will be blatantly in non-compliance,” said Don Marr, Fayetteville chief of staff.