Maple Valley's proposed business license gets makeover
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
August 16, 2012 · Updated 1:08 PM
Although the Maple Valley City Council has yet to vote on a proposed business license ordinance, several significant amendments have been made.
Among the changes was the fee, which the council agreed to drop down from $50 to $25 after several council members expressed interest in keeping the cost for businesses low while recouping some of the staff costs as well.
The discussions also clarified various aspects of the proposed license.
City Manager David Johnston stated that essentially if an organization needed to get a state license to operate they would need to get a city license. No business, however, would need to get a city license that didn’t also need a state license.
Exemptions for real estate dealers were also added to the proposed ordinance Johnston said in a follow-up interview that the city will only require business licenses from real estate agencies that are based in the city limits. Real estate agents coming into the city from other cities will not have to get a business license.
While most of the council seems to support the proposed ordinance, Johnson, who has spoken critically of the business license at previous council meetings, repeated her concerns: the license is both poorly timed and would be costly for the city to enforce.
“I’ve got 670,00 reason why this should not be taking place at this time,” Johnson said. “We have never shown the benefit to the business community. This council is notoriously known for being business unfriendly. We don’t have the staff to enforce it. If we enforce it then we’ve got…more legal fees and we have no control over that.”
Johnson also said that forcing home-based businesses to get a license would create the wrong type of atmosphere.
“I think we need to be looking at this in a couple of years as we see the economy turn around. I don’t think it make any sense to do this now,” Johnson said. “They’re not going to go in for a business license anyway, so then we’re going to be turning neighborhood against neighborhood. It already feels like a Gestapo city to me… I understand that the time is going to come when businesses licenses are probably going to be necessary. I don’t think now is the time to do it. I think we’re going to break the camel back, meaning our city staff that is overworked already and we’re not going to be able to enforce this ordinance. It is just going to sit there or it’s going to take resources from other things. This is not the time to be doing this.”
Council member Layne Barnes stated that cities like Sammamish and Covington have voluntary systems and yet also have a high rate of compliance, which various council members said would be how Maple Valley would handle its license, if approved, as well.
“I think that in terms of economic development and in terms of public safety and in terms of just general public good, I’ve heard a lot from citizens around town they are interested in us having a business,” Barnes said. “I think the time is now. I don’t think it has to be onerous. I certainly think we need to keep the fee as low as possible. I think this is the time for a business license.”
During the public comment section, Sue Van Ruff, executive director of the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, stated concerns about a section of the proposed ordinance that would allow the city manager to revoke a business license from anyone “who shall fail to comply with any ordinance or regulation of the city.”
“Once a business is interrupted… that business never recovers revenue from the interruption of business…it can be revoked for any city ordinance,” VanRuff said. “That’s a little concerning….I agree with Council member Johnson. This isn’t the time to do it.”
Johnston stated that a business would be able to remain open during an appeal process, which would be conducted through the hearing examiner, if the owner’s license was revoked.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.