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Business licenses concerns raised at town council



 

Concerns with the business licensing process have been raised at Amherstburg town council.


Councillor Diane Pouget said there “have been a lot of complaints” with the business licensing bylaw. She asked town administration to speak to the issue.

CAO Valerie Critchley pointed out the bylaw was passed last December.


“We have always licensed businesses in the Town of Amherstburg,” said Critchley. “Before, I believe, it was upward of 56 classes. In reviewing that, it was reduced down to 22.”


According to Critchley, the Municipal Act allows municipalities to have business licenses for health and safety reasons as well as consumer protection and in cases where there are instances of public nuisance.


“What we found was that in Amherstburg, although licensing was being done, there were no annual renewals being required,” she said. “That is typically the case in most municipalities that once you license, you have to renew annually.”

Critchley used an example of a restaurant having a license and ten years later, things may change without the town’s knowledge.


“In the new bylaw, annual renewals are required so we know that the appropriate inspections are being done,” said Critchley. “There are a number of things people have to bring in that we need to ensure are in place to ensure the business is being run appropriately and we are protecting for the three pillars that I mentioned.”The renewal periods are being staggered throughout the year so they don’t all come due at the same time, the CAO added.


Pouget recalled voting in favour of the bylaw “because it seemed reasonable.”

“I just thought everything would be OK,” she said, “but saying that, when we advertised for the increase in user fees, we let the public know about that. Did we not let the public and all of the business owners know we are going this route?


Critchley said the report and the bylaw was on a public agenda “so it was advertised.” She said it was also part of the user fee bylaw.


“That notice was given,” the CAO said. “Certainly, we’re embarking on a public education campaign to explain to people what exactly is involved in licensing, what the inspections pay for, and all of those types of things.”


The town can’t make a profit of off licensing, Critchley added, and it is cost recovery. She said the town’s finance department determines the correct cost recovery amounts.


“In some cases, we’re not even doing full cost recovery because we have to keep the costs reasonable,” said Critchley.


Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb said he wasn’t aware when businesses need multiple licenses, they have to pay in full for each of them. He said if a business needs multiple license renewals, “is it really three times the cost?”


Critchley said when inspections are done, different items and certifications are looked for, emphasizing the town is looking to get cost recovery.


“It’s common in other municipalities that this is the case. If this is something that council wants us to look at for next year, we’d be happy to do that,” she said.


Councillor Peter Courtney didn’t want to “recreate the wheel” but seemed satisfied upon learning other municipalities handle licensing in similar fashion.


“To me, it’s defendable when you are doing a common practice. I wouldn’t want to entertain changing at this point if other municipalities are doing this,” said Courtney. “If we were standalone, absolutely we might have to revamp it.”

Business licenses concerns raised at town council

By Ron Giofu

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