P and Z favors business license

Gray Hughes

The Hill City Planning and Zoning Commission has been deliberating on whether the city should adopt a business registry or business license for some time.

At Monday’s meeting, the commission took a step forward with the direction it thinks the city should head.

A business registry would be a system in which the city could have a list of existing businesses within the city. A license would differ because while there would be some sort of business registry involved, there would be a physical license a business would have to have in order to operate within city limits.

A license, though, would not be needed for charitable, nonprofit groups or yard sales or youth groups.

Dani Schade, development service coordinator for the city, presented the commission with a breakdown of business licenses for other cities within the Black Hills — Custer, Deadwood, Lead, Keystone and Rapid City.

Each city surveyed had some sort of business license and each had different requirements for what needed a license; however, none of the five cities had a registry.

“Would either (a registry or license) take extra work?” asked Keith VanNess, a member of the commission.

Schade said either way, there would be more work on the city’s behalf.

Ron Walker, chairman of the commission, said  while there may be extra work on behalf of the city to get something established, the city would be spared extra work in the event of an emergency so that the city knows who to contact at a specific business.

Scooter Prosneski, commission member, said — from his experience working with public works in a different city — that it’s a very good idea to have some way to contact the business owner in the event of an emergency.

Vic Alexander, who owns and operates several Hill City businesses, said he was not in favor of a license and would be more inclined to support a registry.

Alexander pointed to municipalities in different states, who, he said, have had their licenses revoked for not following COVID-19 protocols. Alexander feared that a business license could be revoked for political reasons.

Connie Wolters, commission member, pointed out that Hill City is surrounded by forest, and much of the city is within the floodplain.

Wolters said while getting a license established in the beginning would take work, it would save the city time and effort contacting businesses in the event of an emergency.

Rollie Noem, commission member, said he was uncertain at that time regarding the direction in which the commission should head with either a business license or registry.

“(Alexander) has some good points,” Noem said.

VanNess was curious whether the license would be needed by businesses that do not have a brick and mortar location — such as those that do business from their places of residence.

Schade said Deadwood has its license system set up that way, and in Keystone all businesses that collect sales tax need to have a license.

Walker said his “heartburn” with a license is that it could arbitrarily be taken away, fearing that it could be something that the city would “hold over the head” of a business.

Schade came up with the idea that, if a license would be revoked, it would need to come to the attention of the commission who would then vote whether or not to send it to the Hill City Common Council for a full review and public hearing, and it would be the council who would make the decision so that it’s four people making the decision rather than just one person.

Prosneski said that’s a good idea.

“We’re not here to take away someone’s license,” he said. “But when it comes down to code enforcement, when is enough actually enough?”

VanNess said he also agreed with Schade.

Schade said that, one reason why she presented this idea, is when she eventually leaves her position she does not want her replacement to be unfair in the process.

Dale Householder, who is the council liaison to the commission, said he liked the idea of a public hearing at the council level to discuss whether to revoke someone’s license.

Walker polled the commission to see where each commissioner stood on the topic of license versus registry. Every commissioner save Walker was in favor of having a license. Walker was in favor of a registry.

Walker then asked Schade to draft an ordinance, which will be presented soon.

Prosneski reiterated that the commission doesn’t want to take away people’s business for trivial matters.

“We want to show we’re working with people,” he said.

User login