Alix council debates 'offended' feelings in business license bylaw

·3 min read

Alix village council gave initial approval to a new business license bylaw for the municipality, but wants to gather public input on the new document before it’s formally approved.

The decision was made at the Jan. 5 regular meeting of council.

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White presented councillors with the draft Business License Bylaw 469/22.

“The current business license bylaw needed general updates as well as specific ones to deal with things like temporary businesses and allowing for stronger penalties,” stated White in her memo to council.

“It also needed to be changed so that it could be enforced by peace officers under our contract agreement with Lacombe County for bylaw enforcement assistance.”

In her summary White noted the new business license bylaw proposes two rates, $50 per year for a local business and $100 per year for a non-local business; the bylaw would define a non-local business as one that is located outside the village corporate boundaries.

“This change would affect four businesses who currently hold licenses and resultS in a higher license fee for them,” stated the CAO.

It was also stated that all general contractors would require a village business license under this bylaw.

White noted the bylaw also proposes a late penalty for business licenses renewed later than Jan. 31 and also stiffened penalties as the previous bylaw had limited options for the village if a business refused to pay the fee.

“The only penalty in the old bylaw was a $100 fine,” stated White’s report. “Section (18) of the new bylaw outlines much stiffer penalties.”

That section proposes a minimum $250 fine for an unlicensed business up to a maximum of $1,000.

Coun. Ed Cole stated it makes sense to have the fine higher than the license fee, which therefore acts as a deterrent.

Coun. Tim Besuijen stated local businesses pay taxes to the village so they should get a lower rate than out-of-towners.

Mayor Rob Fehr agreed that it is reasonable for out-of-town businesses that don’t pay taxes to pay a higher business license fee.

During discussion White also stated the huge majority of local businesses comply with the business license bylaw but the village has seen a few pop-up businesses come into town that don’t really fit into any category; to that end “temporary business” is a new category added to the bylaw.

Mayor Fehr asked about hawkers and peddlers and White stated they could be included under the temporary business category. S

he noted such businesses should get a business license because some residents ask for a license from door-to-door salesmen.

The proposed bylaw also includes a number of organizations that don’t require business licenses, such as non-profit societies.

Coun. Besuijen asked about a section of the bylaw which spells out consequences for a business that engages in “offensive” behaviour.

Besuijen asked how “offensive” could be defined. Coun. Cole responded that “offensive” behaviour can be defined in the Criminal Code.

White answered saying the section is similar to the community standards bylaw’s mention of bad language and was included in the draft bylaw for “extreme cases” and she predicted peace officers would likely only use that section as a last resort.

Also, the CAO stated any enforcement would require a fair bit of documentation including why the peace officer wrote a ticket.

Besuijen responded he was concerned a business license could be taken away because someone else complained about being “offended.” White noted she has never heard of an instance where that has happened.

Councillors decided to pass first reading of the bylaw, then put the document out for public comment and consider those comments and further readings at a February council meeting.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

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