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Public splits on need for business licenses in Prescott

Prescott landlord Eugene Scott, left, speaks to the Prescott City Council about a proposed new city business license Tuesday, April 19, while Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill, second from left, City Manager Craig McConnell, third from left, and City Attorney Jon Paladini, right, look on.
Photo by Cindy Barks.

Prescott landlord Eugene Scott, left, speaks to the Prescott City Council about a proposed new city business license Tuesday, April 19, while Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill, second from left, City Manager Craig McConnell, third from left, and City Attorney Jon Paladini, right, look on.

PRESCOTT – Local landlord Eugene Scott says he already is required to have three separate sales-tax licenses for the three homes he rents out in Prescott, and he worries that a new city business license would add to his licensing requirements.

Scott, who maintains that his rental properties are investments rather than businesses, urged the City Council this week to exempt residential rentals from the business-license program that is under consideration.

“I feel it is inappropriate for rental houses to be considered businesses,” Scott said. “I ask you in fairness to delete residential rentals (from the program).”

Scott was one of several local residents who offered their views – both for and against – on the city’s business license proposal during the council’s Tuesday, April 19, study session.

The meeting was the latest in a series of council discussions in the months-long move toward a new business license program. While a vote is not scheduled until May 3, the council opened this week’s meeting up for public comments and heard a number of differing views on the license proposal.

Phil Goode, for instance, told the council that in his previous profession in manufacturing of health-care supplies and medical devices, a community’s ability to provide information on the types of existing businesses was key in decisions about where to locate.

During his time working in expansion of distribution plants and locating new plants, Goode said, “One of the first things I did was only working with those cities where I could get quick information on the locations, the competition, the neighborhoods … Those cities that didn’t provide that information easily were immediately rejected.”

He added: “So, I would support establishing this type of basic business information so we can attract and retain businesses in the city.”

Kendall Jaspers, the director of the Prescott Downtown Partnership, agreed, noting that the PDP Board was “generally in favor of business licenses as an economic development tool.”

But business owner Ray Sola questioned how the license would help. “It has absolutely no benefit to businesses, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Indeed, council members have maintained that – at $35 per year – the license would be an inexpensive way for businesses to get their name onto a community registry, which could be a marketing advantage.

Councilman Steve Blair asked whether the business-license information would be available on the city’s website. If so, he said, “This is going to be an advertising tool for the community.”

But that prompted Councilman Greg Lazzell – an opponent of the license – to note, “I didn’t know the city is in competition with the news agencies for advertising. I guess we’re in that business now.”

The council will allow for public comments again on May 3, before taking a vote on adoption of the ordinance.

Scott’s comments about his residential rentals prompted a question from Councilwoman Billie Orr about whether a landlord would need a license for each property. She pointed out that the proposed code would allow a group of doctors practicing in the same location, for example, to have just one license.

But Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill explained that the way the proposed business-license ordinance is written, each location would need to have a business license. In the case of a group of physicians, he said, just one license would be needed because the group would have a common address.

City Attorney Jon Paladini pointed out that the proposed ordinance could be adjusted to allow a single-family residential landlord to have a single license that would list the various locations. “You’d be getting a business license as a residential landlord. So that one license, in theory, could cover all of the single-family residential properties that one landlord operates under,” Paladini said.

Orr asked Paladini to include an option for that change in the ordinance that goes to the council in May.

If adopted on May 3, the ordinance would become effective on June 2.

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