Business fee gets city’s axe

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

September 27, 2006

The Hood River City Council killed a proposed business license on Monday due to lack of public support.

“It is our opinion that it is time to let this business license go. It has had more negative input than it has positive,” said Mayor Linda Streich.

She had gained agreement from the three councilors joining her in support of the concept to let it die. However, Councilor Paul Cummings said that he still hoped the license would be adopted one day. He believed it provided the city with an avenue to better protect public safety.

Councilors Martin Campos-Davis and Carrie Nelson also felt the license allowed the city to more closely monitor hazardous materials stored at home-based businesses. It also provided emergency responders with easy access to contact numbers in the event of a fire or other catastrophe.

“I still believe that Ordinance 1901 should be implemented but it’s pretty evident that this is not the time or place for it. Maybe sometime in the future…” said Cummings.

Self-employed photographer Brian Robb said he was pleased with the council decision. He had been planning to launch a referendum to overturn 1901 if it was approved.

He believed that citizens didn’t want to pay a $50 initial fee and $20 annual renewal in 2006 anymore than they had in 1989. At that time the council moved ahead on an almost identical plan that was later vetoed by the electorate.

“I think the councilors listened to the public testimony and the community. And they made a great decision – it was the right thing to do,” said Robb.

Two weeks ago the council gave the first reading to 1901. However, they were challenged by residents to conduct a public survey before giving final approval to the license.

Opponents contended that the elected body would find that poll a match for the recent survey conducted by the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce. Almost 60 percent of respondents were against the license.

Although the council made two modifications prior to the Sept. 25 meeting, they were still unable to garner support for the plan. In response to citizen concern that the license was intended as a “revenue-generator,” the elected officials decided to cap the fees. That would require a public hearing to amend the ordinance before the cost could be raised.

The council also added a sunset clause to 1901 that necessitated it be revisited in three years. At that time, a determination could be made if a central database created by the license was effectively addressing public health and safety concerns, or helping more businesses get established and/or in compliance with existing regulations.

In a previous redraft of 1901, the council had lifted a controversial requirement for mandatory annual site inspections.

Robb said information on businesses, such as any significant storage of chemicals, could already be gleaned from the state fire marshal and other regulatory agencies. He told the council that, with no enforcement arm, it would be impossible for the city to closely monitor activities at the 600 affected businesses anyway. Councilors Laurent Picard, Ann Frodel and Paul Blackburn had opposed 1901. They believed that if 75 percent of Oregon’s cities do not require a license, there must be an alternative way to create a data base that could also be used for marketing purposes.

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