EAST PALESTINE - Village officials want less mystery when it comes to commercial property in town.
Councilman Don Elzer on Monday said he has been developing a new law that would require businesses to register with the village before operating and once a year after that.
"We need some sort of method for what businesses are coming into town, and more importantly, how to contact those people if there is a problem," he said.
The village currently has no law requiring registration, or anything else, from business owners or those who own commercial property.
Mayor Margo Zuch said it is a guessing game every time commercial property is sold or bought.
"We don't always know what is coming in," she said.
Councilman Alan Cohen said the only time a business or commercial property owner needs to approach village officials regarding property is if it pertains to a zoning change.
"I agree, we should have some way to keep track of businesses and what they are doing," he said.
Elzer provided drafts of the registration forms to council and explained if it were approved sometime this year it wouldn't take effect until Jan. 1.
Under his suggestion all businesses (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and/or LLC) must register annually to operate within village limits.
Commercial property owners would also need to register using a separate form. Property required to be registered would be those which fall under the B1, B2, or I1 and I2 zoning classifications.
According to the documents he provided, information from the forms will be used for safety purposes, notification and taxation, and will not be made public.
The commercial property form will also allow the village to identify property owners and uses.
Elzer said he discussed his idea with Fire Chief Brett Todd and Police Chief Kevin Dickey before the council meeting, and they were in favor.
Dickey said registration is a "good idea" because it provides the department with contact information in case of an emergency.
"It will also provide information as to what kind of business will be going in a particular building and assure the business is appropriate for the location. I think this is a prudent move by council to assure the safety of the residents," he said.
If passed, businesses that apply and are accepted will receive a certificate to conduct business within village limits for that calendar year and the certificate must be displayed in a conspicuous location to the public, customers and employees, Elzer explained in the documents.
Renewal forms will be sent to prior registrants for the upcoming year and must be returned by Jan. 5. Businesses that begin during the course of the year would have to register before opening.
He also suggested the initial registration fee be set at $25, with subsequent renewals the same price each year, for both business and commercial property registration.
If a business is found to be operating without registration, or a commercial property is not registered, a 10 day notice will be given to allow the business or property owner to comply. A fine of $100 will be assessed to the business if registration is not obtained by deadline.
The $100 fine will be assessed to the commercial property owner for each month the property goes unregistered.
While he was pleased with Elzer's suggestion, Cohen didn't agree with the initial registration fee.
"I'm a free enterprise guy. I have to emphasize the word 'free,'" he said.
He went on to say that small business owners are charged by several other agencies during the course of a year and "that adds up."
Village Manager Pete Monteleone said most places require a minimal fee to help offset administrative costs, but Cohen continued to stress it should be free.
Elzer said he had no problem removing any fees.
Cohen suggested the matter go before the legislative committee for discussion, with public input sought.
A committee meeting was then scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 28, prior to the regular council meeting.