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Posted: January 15, 2019

Business License Bylaw changes increase fees

By Stephanie Stevens

Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

District of Invermere (DOI) council voted to amend the Business License Bylaw at its regular meeting of council January 8, increasing fees slightly across the board and adding in a few new ones.

The bylaw has seen no fee increases or major changes since 1987, explained chief administrative officer Chris Prosser, and as staff was making additions specific to recreational marijuana retail stores, they had a look at the entire document.

The fees were increased by $25 across the board, but a few new additions will have a higher price tag, including retail cannabis, pawnbrokers and second hand shops, dating and escort services, body rub parlours and body painting parlours.

“We have added regulations and fees for some businesses that could potentially have criminal intent,” Prosser explained, adding that with escort services in particular, Golden and another B.C. Interior community have had issues with underage girls.

“So for example if a pawn shop opened up, they would have to keep records of everything purchased, dates of purchase and whom it was purchased from to ensure they are not accepting stolen property, or if an escort service was to open up, they would (among other things) be required to supply identification and ages of all employees to both us and the RCMP,” explained Prosser, adding the district has never had an application for an escort service or body rub parlour.

“Once a license is issued, we cannot make those changes afterwards,” he said. “This ensures we have the regulations in place just in case.”

Or as council chambers viewer Richard Unger quipped, “It is a prophylactic measure.”

The annual fees for other higher risk businesses are: cannabis or grow operations, $1,000; rental or lease of watercraft, $1,000, pawn brokers and second hand dealers, $2,000; social escort services etc., $5,000.

One fee increase did instigate some discussion among council.

The fee for mobile vendors was a proposed increase from $300 to $500.

“While I am supportive of the higher fees for some, and maybe this is me being nostalgic for my old hot dog cart days, I don’t understand the fee for mobile vending jumping from $300 to $500,” said Councilor Gerry Taft, adding that a higher fee for mobile vendors, which could be open for only a low number of days in the year, “seemed kind of punitive.”

Prosser noted that feedback from local brick and mortar businesses is that mobile vendors are open during the peak season only and steal a lot of business without having any “skin in the game.”

“I understand part of the argument for higher fees is that a mobile vendor is not paying commercial tax, but they will be renting property that is paying commercial tax,” replied Taft.

Councilor Ute Juras echoed Taft’s sentiments, adding there were only a few mobile vendors in Invermere at any one time for a short season, so the skin in the game argument was “not a great one.”

Taft moved to amend the motion to accept the new licensing fees to keep the mobile vending fee at $300. It passed unanimously.

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