After receiving a loud and clear message from area retailers last month that they were opposed to being charged an annual licence fee, a Town committee has decided to make the fee one-time only. The Town's Business Licence Review Committee supported a motion by Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette to make the change to the retail trade section of its business licence bylaw at a meeting Monday afternoon. A one-time $90 fee would be applied only to retail (merchandise) establishments-- not stores that sell food, tobacco, or second-hand goods which will continue to be charged an annual fee-- and is to take effect on April 1. Halton Hills council has to support the change by endorsing the committee's meeting minutes before the revised bylaw is official. The minutes are expected to be included in Monday's (Feb. 6) council agenda. The revision is to be made to the business licensing bylaw passed by council last June that for the first time in the Town's history saw retail businesses being charged an annual fee ranging from $82.50 to $220. Georgetown Market Place manager Herminia Henderson, who spoke out against the annual fee to the committee last month, was pleased with the result of the meeting. "I didn't want to see any fee, but if there had to be a fee, a one-time fee is good," said Henderson. "That way the merchants don't get hassled,its a done deal. I think most retailers would be pretty pleased."
She also said she wanted to compliment the mayor, and some councillors for their support and efforts on behalf of the retailers on the issue.
John Vieria of JV Clothing, who at the earlier meeting with the committee called the fee a "money grab" and presented a petition signed by more than 300 local retailers opposed to the licence fee, was not completely satisfied with the outcome. "I still feel it's (a fee for retailers) wrong," said Vieria. "But it's the best of two evils." "I don't think it's necessary to have a licence every year," said Bonnette when making the motion. "However, it is important that every retail store at least have a fire plan."
He said for the time fee, businesses will be registered with the Town and receive a fire plan. Any retailer who paid the fee in 2005 does not to have to pay it again, the Mayor confirmed.
"I think the last meeting opened a lot of eyes," said Bonnette, who recommended a letter be sent to retailers explaining the change to the bylaw. Debbie Edmonds, manager of licensing and legislative services for the Town, said the impact on the Town's 2006 budget by removing the annual fee for the general retailers is $10,800. Also at the meeting Monday the and committee added a $90 one year fee for indoor mall vendors and one year $180 fee for indoor mall trade shows.