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Update | Maple Valley City Council approves business license
The Maple Valley City Council voted to approve a city business license at its Sept. 10 meeting.
The vote, 6-1, came nearly a year after the City Council’s Public Safety Oversight Committee first examined the issue. Ultimately, the committee voted 3-0 to recommend the city adopt a business license program.
When the ordinance was first introduced in May, the proposed license fee was $50, but it was eventually whittled down to $10. City Manager David Johnston told the Reporter in May the fee was intended merely to cover the costs of the program and not for generating revenue.
“We’re not here to make money,” he said. “We used the words ‘revenue neutral.’ It’s just the program will pay for the cost of the program. Some cities have $150 licenses. They do that solely to have a revenue stream. We’re not anticipating that. City Council instructed it to be revenue neutral.”
According to the ordinance, any business that has to get a state business license must also get a city business license. The owner must also get a business license for each location the business operates within the city.
The business license also only applies to businesses which are based in Maple Valley as well as only applies to a single owner and cannot be transferred. It must be renewed annually.
The ordinance also gives the city manager the power to revoke a business license for lack of payment or if an owner fails to comply with any other ordinance or regulation of the city.
Although public safety was among the main reasons for a business license, the opening in April of Green Society Group, a medical marijuana management company, was seen by both Johnston and members of the council as another reason a license is necessary.
Under the ordinance, the city cannot issue a license to a business that violates any city zoning, ordinance, state or federal law.
Because the city has a peddler’s license, Mayor Bill Allison said, it needed to adopt a business license as well.
“We need to protect ourselves from being vulnerable to a suit if they come after us and say ‘Well, you don’t have a business license for everyone. Why are you singling us out,.’” Allison said.
Other council members such as Sean Kelly have stated repeatedly a license would be beneficial to both the city and the business community.
“We (will) know what businesses are in the city so we can help them,” Kelly told the Reporter in May. “We’d like to know what’s in the city and where. If we have a sexual predator, we need to know where they’re at and what’s around them, like a daycare center. We know where schools are at, but there are some daycare centers we don’t know (about). If something happens to that business in the middle of the night, we need to be able to get a hold of that person.”
In September of last year, a business was damaged when a car drove into it. According to Kelly, it took the police and fire department over an hour to contact the owner.
The business license program initially received criticism from the business community, with owners claiming it was untimely, unnecessary and unfriendly to businesses.
Sue VanRuff, executive director for the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, said she is pleased with some of the improvements made in the ordinance over its original version, such as only requiring a designated real estate broker, rather than requiring all the realtors to get a license, which she credited to Maple Valley broker Sean Davies.
“He was all over this ordinance,” VanRuff said. “Realtors should be ecstatic about the input he had. He will have to get the business license, but not his individual agents. That was a big win because had the ordinance passed as it was every real estate agent would have had to have a business license. As this evolved there were a lot of changes. It’s less onerous than the original one. It’s a good news-bad news. We have a business license but it’s far better than the original draft.”
At the same time, however, VanRuff expressed concerns over several sections of the ordinance, such as the ability of the city manager to revoke a business license due to any city ordinance violation.
“It might not be an issue today,” she said. “But say in the future if staff for whatever reason it becomes selective or targeted, but it does leave the door open. What if I got a speeding ticket. Does that mean my (business) license can be revoked? If it’s specific to the ordinance or business function or function of that business and not some personal action, is that made clear in the ordinance? That would be a concern to me.”
According to the city attorney, the provision is meant to address city violations related to the business in question.
Other cities in South King County that have a business license program include Auburn, Covington, Black Diamond, Kent, Des Moines and Enumclaw.
For more information on state business licenses, go to http://bls.dor.wa.gov/file.aspx.