Council divided on business registration

EAST PALESTINE – The possible implementation of local business registration is on hold while Village Solicitor Shirley Smith looks into whether it is even allowable under state law.

Councilman Alan Cohen pointed out this week at least one of the two new laws proposed by Councilman Don Elzer would violate Ohio law.

Elzer has proposed the village require new and existing business owners to fill out a registration form annually and pay a $25 fee before they can operate. Following registration they would receive a certificate that must be displayed inside the business.

He believes the registration is beneficial because it will allow the village to know what businesses are operating in town and who to contact in case of an emergency.

He said the registration is mainly for safety and informational reasons, but Cohen believes it is a government infringement on free enterprise.

Cohen has said the registration is basically a license and told Elzer and council this week they cannot require a license from every business in town – that doing so is a violation of Ohio law.

He asked Elzer and Smith if someone with an Alpaca farm wanting to sell items in town they had made from the wool would be required to register, or if Threshold Services would be required to register.

They both said yes.

“You’re both wrong,” he said, and directed them to Ohio Revised Code 715.63.

According to the law the village is not allowed to require a license from “the owner of any product of his own raising, or the manufacture of any article manufactured by him.”

“All the ORC laws that govern what we are allowed to do in terms of licensing and regulation. We can’t do anything beyond that. We are not allowed under ORC to have an ordinance where we license every single business in town,” Cohen said.

He added the village already has ordinances in place that parallel the Ohio Revised Code stipulations.

Elzer then asked how other communities “reject” certain businesses from operating.

“Nobody requires licenses from their businesses out of what the ORC says they are allowed to license most communities make a business present their vendor’s license,” Cohen replied.

Businesses allowed to be regulated under state law and the local ordinances include billiards and pool rooms, gambling, street vendors, and certain occupations and premises, such as mortgage and salary and loan brokers, boarding stables, dancing or riding academies or schools, junk shops, public ballrooms, and secondhand dealers.

The local ordinances prohibit uninvited peddling and soliciting although registration is required for invited peddling and soliciting. Registration would be obtained through the chief of police.

Cohen suggested the registration legislation be tabled until Smith could determine whether it could be redrafted in a manner that doesn’t violate Ohio law.

Council approved tabling the legislation.

Cohen then said the second law suggested by Elzer requiring registration from commercial property owners could be construed as a real estate tax.

“You’re charging them $25 a year because they own that piece of property and that is the only reason you’re charging them,” he said.

Elzer said the fee is not intended to be a tax and argued the registration is beneficial because it will allow the village to know who is occupying buildings on the properties and what is being stored inside.

Council approved removing the legislation from the agenda after Cohen again said the matter could be construed as a real estate tax and the village could be sued since real estate taxes must be levied by residents and collected by the county.