Jacksonville revises business license law to help seasonal events

JACKSONVILLE — After three months of debate and public comments, the City Council has revised its business license law with the goal of keeping the process simple, keeping the city informed and reducing costs for seasonal events such as farmers markets, art sales and holiday bazaars.

"We're trying to help people have events in the city but also have the city know what's going on," said City Recorder Jan Garcia, who administers the issuance of business licenses. She said gaps existed in the previous policy.

The City Council approved the revisions July 17. The council first considered the issue in April, when a proposal for changes led to lengthy debate and calls for public comments. A study session was held in May, and adoption of changes was considered at the July 3 meeting but delayed for further tweaking.

"Everyone was supposed to have a business license before," said Garcia. "We are trying to educate people so they will know what they are supposed to do."

The farmers market held Saturdays at the courthouse can now operate under one five-month, seasonal license that costs $80 each fiscal year. Individual vendors will not be required to have licenses, an area that was unclear in the earlier code.

"Instead of trying to collect a fee from each individual business vendor, we are trying to help them have one fee," said Garcia. "It's more affordable, and then I'm not trying to figure out who is doing business in the city."

A $200 annual fee for the market was proposed in April. That same fee would have been charged to art sales and bazaars that lasted for four days or more. Shorter events would have cost $100. Under the adopted code, the charge will be $80. Nonprofits that are registered with the state will not be charged a fee.

Jeanena Whitewilson, who organizes an annual Celebrate the Arts event over Labor Day weekend with up to 65 artists, told the council on July 3 she didn't like all the paperwork proposed.

In response, staff developed a two-page short form. If certain items are checked, including service of alcohol or food, entertainment, traffic, sales and impact on others, vendors must provide more specific information.

"(Whitewilson) had to only do the short form because none of those items applied to her," said Garcia.

Some items must go to the City Council or city departments for approval. The council, for example, must approve banners strung across streets.

"Last year we didn't have such a clear type of event package," said David Jesser, a city councilman who is also an organizer for the Aug. 22-25 World of Wine event at Bigham Knoll.

"It went smoother this year," said Jesser. "There just wasn't the streamlined type of format we have now."

The annual citywide yard sale, held the first weekend after Labor Day, was also addressed in the ordinance. All outside vendors will pay a $10-per-day license fee. An individual who leases a lot and allows other vendors to set up on it will also pay the $10 daily fee.

Jesser says the new provisions are good for the city.

"It keeps the city in a position of understanding what an event is so that all the public safety people can be plugged in," said Jesser.

Reach Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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