One-year fee holiday is a break for businesses


Council to consider reprieve for home-based businesses

In an attempt to get a more accurate number of home-based businesses in West Linn, the city's economic development director is requesting a one-year holiday from permits and renewals.

The city council will vote Monday whether to adopt a one-year program that forgives all home occupation permits and renewals from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013. The permits and renewals would still be required, but the fees would be waived. On top of that, the city will grant amnesty to those who are delinquent.

Heading up the proposed program is Chris Kerr, who was appointed as economic development director at the beginning of June.

The reason behind the proposed program is to get a grasp of how many businesses really are in West Linn, especially the number of home-based ones.

To get at that number, during a June 4 city council work session, he originally proposed a one-year amnesty from licensing fees for businesses that have not obtained a license or have lapsed on renewal as well as the home occupation permits. The hope is more people will step up and register their businesses.

However, city councilors balked at the $41,000 potential loss in revenue and suggested a hybrid model, which is what is being considered on Monday. The new option would result in a loss of about $6,800.

'I think that's in line with what you're looking for,' Kerr told the council during its June 18 work session.

By removing all the penalties, Kerr hopes to encourage compliance from those businesses that are not currently in the city's system.

The city currently requires licenses for all for-gain businesses within city boundaries, with the exception of garage sales. Also, all home occupations need a permit and pay an annual fee to the city. All home occupations must renew their licenses annually. It is $100 for a new permit and $10 a year to renew.

As of today, there are 1,245-licensed businesses in West Linn and 423 of them are home occupations. The city expects to collect $38,000 in revenue from those businesses this year.

The reason behind the fee holiday is that the staff thinks the licensing program is being underused as a resource to serve the business community.

The waiver, during the current recession, could be beneficial to home businesses. It would also expand the city's inventory of businesses and help the city get a feel for what kind of businesses are operating in West Linn.

If the council supports the hybrid version of the plan, the city will need to modify the Master Fees and Charges Schedule, which the council approved June 11. The modification would reflect zero revenue for home occupation permits.

Councilor Mike Jones had recused himself from the discussion during the June 4 meeting as he has a home-based business and could possibly benefit from the proposed program. Since that time he has purchased a license and is expected to vote on Monday.