By Barb Pert Templeton
The Marine City Commission held the second reading and a second public hearing before formally adopting Business Regulation Ordinance No. 22-004 during a regular meeting on Oct. 20.
During the public hearing Laura Merchant, owner of the Mariner in Marine City said she agreed with getting the new ordinance in place as it will help ensure an accurate count of the number of businesses in the city including multiple LLC businesses operating under one roof.
Using her own business as an example, she said there are two other businesses inside the Mariner and wondered if they would fall under her businesses LLC license or do they have to pay the fees and get their own.
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Merchant said if so, they will both be applying for business licenses and the application fee is $195. Merchant said it’s $100 for the clerk’s office, $50 to the building department and $45 for the fire authority.
Attorney Robert Davis wondered if Merchant was asking if the fire department could just come out once for all three businesses.
“I just wonder if I already paid for it why do they have to pay for it again,” Merchant said. “It just seems redundant if they are utilizing the same space that has just been inspected.”
Tatman said they will look at the multiple businesses under one roof situation individually.
“We were trying to simplify the ordinance,” Tatman said. “And yes, it’s a little more money on the front end but yes we will look at it on a case-by-case basis.”
Tatman said they’ve been doing some brainstorming about the fees they will collect and are talking about putting the money into one lump fund that would allow businesses to apply for some of the money back to update their signage and interior.
“So essentially reinvesting in themselves,” Tatman said.
She said one issue was that there are places that have multiple businesses and they don’t want to get a license for any of them which makes it difficult to know how many businesses the city has in place.
Commissioner Brian Ross said he had a few questions about the ordinance too. He said the ordinance does say that each individual vendor under one roof should each have their own license. He said the language in the ordinance states that each needs a license and a tax identification number, instead of all of them falling under the umbrella company that owns or leases the building. He suggested the verbiage should be “the owner” and then add “or the leasee’ of the space into the language for the ordinance
“Our goal when we struggled with this language was that we wanted to capture all the businesses,” Davis said.
Commissioner Lisa Hendrick pointed out that the fee is going up to $200 and then each year after that it’s $75 for license renewal, she asked how much of that money is going into a special account that will go back to the businesses. Tatman said they haven’t sorted that out yet.
Tatman suggested putting the ordinance in place for a year and see what occurs and tweak it if need be.
“It would be nice to get this up and running,” she added. “And if we can turn this around and some of the funds go back to the business there’s another win.”
Mayor Cheryl Vercammen said as a business owner she likes that she knows to renew her license at the first of the year and the idea that some of the funds could go back to businesses is good news.
“I think we should put it in motion for a year (with the current pay structure),” Vercammen said.
Hendrick said what about Bed and Breakfasts and Tatman said that’s a whole different thing.
She said tracking the Bed and Breakfasts Airbnb is challenging regardless.
“We will catch what we can with the means we have,” Tatman said. “But people always figure out how to skirt the system.”
Hendrick was concerned that the ordinance would be difficult to enforce but Tatman, Vercammen and Davis quickly said they can enforce it without a problem.
“I’m not against trying to update this but we need to do more diligence so when we do this and get into this and we go to a business, we are going to get into some real arguments with businesses who don’t understand it,” Hendrick said.
A majority of the commission approved the adoption of Ordinance No. 22-003 Business Regulations. Commissioner Lisa Hendrick and William Klaassen voted no.