The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 17, 2014

Council approves, discusses business related ordinances

LEWISBURG — City council gave final approval to an ordinance permitting tents to be used for commercial purposes in Lewisburg and conducted preliminary votes on three other business-related measures during Tuesday evening’s regular session.

As was explained at a previous council meeting, questions had arisen about the use of tents as accessory structures during, for example, a special event at a car dealership. The ordinance that passed a second reading Tuesday and is now in effect sets the parameters under which such temporary structures may be erected and provides for an application to be filed and a permit fee to be paid before the tent is placed for a period not to exceed six months.

According to Mayor John Manchester, the fee for a tent permit is $25.

Contractors will be added to the list of businesses that must pay the city’s Business and Occupation (B&O) tax, if an ordinance to that effect gains approval following a second reading next month.

Currently, only utilities and large retailers pay the tax, but the mayor said most other municipalities with B&O taxes also charge building contractors.

The ordinance that passed a first reading Tuesday sets a rate of $2 in tax for each $100 of gross income the contractor receives for work done in Lewisburg, but places the onus on the property owner to see to it that the tax is paid. The tax will not be assessed on do-it-yourself projects which the property owner tackles on his or her own.

If approved at the May 20 council meeting, the ordinance will go into effect July 1.

Also on target for a July 1 implementation, pending approval next month, is an ordinance doubling building permit fees in the city from the current $3 per $1,000 of construction to $6 per $1,000. The measure received unanimous support from council at a first reading on Tuesday.

Yet another ordinance that will be up for a second and final reading in May establishes a “simplified licensing fee schedule” for city businesses, creating a limited number of broad categories.

Under the terms of this ordinance, while the general license fee for most businesses in Lewisburg is $20 per year, some types of business will pay different fees. Pawnbrokers will pay an annual fee of $100, while the fee charged to “hawkers and peddlers” depends upon whether the individual travels in a motor vehicle and upon the size of that vehicle. Itinerant vendors will pay a fee of $500 each year.

“It’s not one size fits all,” Manchester said. “However, it is a simplification (from the current schedule).”

The ordinance will go into effect immediately upon approval, following a second reading.

The mayor said the simplified fee schedule emerged from the state’s pilot program in allowing certain municipalities to experiment with so-called “home rule.”

Lewisburg plans to apply for one of 16 additional slots now opening up in that program’s second phase, Manchester said. A public hearing on the issue is set for May 1 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall. Copies of the city’s preliminary application for inclusion in the program are available for public review at City Hall and at the Greenbrier County Public Library.

“It’s a very open public process,” Manchester said of the home rule application procedure.

Council also unanimously approved changes in the city’s recycling program, discontinuing collection of cardboard from commercial businesses, as well as planning to step up efforts to educate the public in regards to the recycling of plastics.

Council member Mark Etten, who chairs Lewisburg’s finance committee, said more than 50 percent of the city’s recycling budget goes for labor to sort recyclables, an undertaking that at times includes removing disposable diapers from designated recycling bags.

Council member Heather Blake said, while curbside recycling is free to Lewisburg’s trash collection customers, the actual cost to the city is $244 per recycler, per year.

“This is an effort to try and keep the program operating,” Manchester said of the changes that will be implemented as a result of Tuesday’s vote.

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