Jacksonville council will look at fine-tuning city's business code

JACKSONVILLE — The city's business license code has a few gaps in it, so the city is going to take a look at updating it and would like citizens to weigh in.

The code does not cover seasonal operations or multiple vendors operating under one license, causing problems for the farmers market, the annual citywide yard sale, holiday bazaars, arts-and-craft sales and similar events.

Those problems and others will be discussed at a City Council study session Tuesday, May 22, at 5:30 p.m. in Old City Hall, 205 W. Main St.

City staff presented a proposed ordinance to the council April 17 that could address issues until the code can be rewritten.

"We have people who are open without business licenses, and we have people who are paying for a full-year license, and they are basically doing the same thing," said City Recorder Jan Garcia. "We want to make it equitable for all parties."

Nothing exists in the code to guide staff on event-sales licenses, said Garcia. Business license fees cost $80 annually for the fiscal year. A half-year license, from Jan. 1 to June 30, costs $40. A daily license costs $10.

"Any time a monetary thing occurs, people should know ahead of time," said Councilman David Jesser, who urged further examination. "This is just an effort to make sure that all the parties affected by this proposal have an opportunity to give input."

City officials charged the $10 fee to participants in last year's citywide yard sale, an annual event that takes place the second weekend of September. Previously outside vendors paid no fees during the sales. Residents who sell their own items at home during the weekend are exempt from the charge.

Ken Snoke, organizer of the Saturday farmers market that began in 2010, had asked to purchase a half-year license because the operation runs from May through October. City officials denied the request because it didn't fit within the code's time periods.

About 10 to 20 vendors usually attend the farmers market, Snoke told the city. But that can climb to more than 30 at times.

Provisions in the staff proposal would cover:

  • Long-term events, such as farmers markets and art sales, operating four or more days year. The proposed annual fee is $200. The license would cover multiple vendors at the same site. A half-year license from Jan. 1 through June 30 would cost $100.
  • Organizers of short-term events of three days or less, such as holiday bazaars and operations during the citywide yard sale, would pay $100. Multiple vendors at one site would be covered by a single license.
  • Nonprofit organizations would pay no fee for short-term events, but would pay the long-term fee for more than three days.

Under the staff proposal, vendors at the citywide yard sale who were in the same location under one license would pay less than last year, Garcia noted.

"I have called a whole bunch of people who are interested and asked them to spread the word among others so they have the opportunity to discuss things," said Garcia.

"Most of the thinking on this from all sides is that we are trying to make everything fair," said Mayor Paul Becker. "The fees have to reflect the duration of the marketing effort. I think that's where they all kind of need a little more study."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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