Business licence bylaw results in mixed reactions

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Crafters participating in charitable or fundraising shows like the library's annual craft sale would be exempt from a business licence under Morinville's new business licence bylaw.

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A new bylaw regulating business licensing in Morinville passed third reading Dec. 13. The bylaw takes the matter of business licencing and simplifies it into a 13-page document that introduces elements that make it easier for those conducting special or fundraising events.

Under the bylaw, general businesses licences will continue to be $100 per year for residents and $200 per year for non-Residents. Resident Hawkers or Peddlers will pay $100 or $35 per day while non-resident Hawkers and Peddlers would pay $200 or $50 per day.

The newly-passed bylaw introduces a special event licence for events like the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce’s annual trade show. Businesses participating in the event would be subject to a $25 fee for residents who do not already have a business licence and $50 for non-residents. However, non-resident businesses not directly selling a product or service at the event would be exempt from needing a license provided they are at the event solely to advertise their business.

The bylaw also introduces exemptions for those participating in fundraising events such as the Morinville Public Library’s annual Christmas Craft Sale. Crafters participating in legitimate charitable or fundraising events would be exempt from needing a licence because they would be covered under the licence taken out by the organizers of the event. Those selling only at a provincially-regulated farmers’ market also do not require a licence.

“It makes it more efficient for us and it makes it far easier for the vendors as well so that they know that they are covered,” said Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development, Greg Hoffman on the changes to the bylaw. “If there’s a fundraising event and someone is at this fundraising event who is under the vernacular definition of crafter, and they’re selling their wares, they’re covered under the event business licence.”

Where the licencing becomes required is when the crafter is conducting business apart from the special event fundraisers. Hoffman said someone creating crafts in their home for several months to build an inventory for fundraising sales would likely not require a licence; however, if they are involved in conducting business outside the fundraising events, then Morinville’s licencing department would have to look at the particulars of their situation. “They may be subject to a business licence because they are also engaged in [other] business,” Hoffman explained. “For us to try and go down the road to distinguish the need for a business licence based on how much income you make, how much revenue you generate, or whether you generate revenue at all is something that is going to be just impossible to administer.”

Hoffman explained the list of exemptions from licencing under the new bylaw is actually greater than under the previous version.

Some crafters upset with licencing requirements

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of having to apply and pay for a business license. Emily McKay owner of Cold Lipstick’s Garden, a home-based craft business that makes baby and children’s accessories finds the requirement prohibitive and the fee exorbitant.

“Due to the current Town of Morinville bylaws requiring all small, home-based business to pay a licensing fee of $150 for the first year and $100 each year after I might have to close down my little mostly web-based business of home-made accessories,” McKay said in an e-mail interview. “This bylaw affects a great many ladies I know who are trying to bring in a little extra money to help out the family so they can stay at home with their kids. I myself started this so I could stay at home with my now seven-month-old daughter and help offset the cost of formula. By paying this fee I am literally taking the food out of my daughter’s mouth.”

McKay went on to say the licensing requirement not only affects crafters like herself but direct sellers, including Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Party Lite and others.

Licensing not about grabbing cash

Hoffman said the licence fee is not meant to be a money grab. The ability for a municipality to issue business licenses is a section of the Municipal Government Act Hoffman said is not well understood by many, including many municipalities. “The Municipal Government Act does give municipalities the authority to engage in regulating businesses,” he said. “It’s not a matter of trying to be punitive and grabbing money from wherever we can.”

The director of planning said business licences are an important mechanism to ensure that business are aware of the need to adhere to the Town’s bylaws. “It’s a mechanism to inform compliance with all other municipal bylaws: land use bylaw, community standards bylaw, noise bylaw – all those sorts of things,” Hoffman said. “It’s a good useful tool for that purpose.”

The planning and development director said whether or not someone requires a business licence is something that cannot be determined until the particulars and scope of the business is known. “I would encourage them to come and talk to us and to discuss the particulars of their individual circumstances,” he said, adding in the majority of cases the business licencing process is a simple and straightforward process.

Other changes to the business licencing bylaw include an expansion of the time period for temporary business licences from seven to 21 days. Planning and Development spent considerable time internally reviewing the document and sought input from the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce.

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1 Comment

  1. In theory having business licenses to enforce bylaws such as the community standards is an excellent idea. In practice however I wonder if those businesses that earn multiple bylaw complaints will be re-issued a business license. They could have better described what the interplay would be between historical behavior and license renewal.

    For instance, if a builder litters the neighborhood again and again with construction debris, but pays all fines just before license renewal. Should their license be renewed or should they be held to a standard of behavior throughout the year to be re issued a license?

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