Auburn Discusses Business License Revocations

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Auburn Mayor Ron Anders claps during his fourth State of the City address, held Nov. 16 at the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center. PHOTOS BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH / THE OBSERVER

BY HANNAH LESTER

HLESTER@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

AUBURN  — 

During the Auburn City Council Committee of the Whole, the council heard a presentation on an amendment to the Business License Ordinance.

City Manager Megan Crouch gave the presentation after the amendment was tabled back in October. 

“Businesses, along with our citizens, are the lifeblood of our community and there would never  be an attempt by the city staff — never — to harm business in any way, shape or form,” Crouch said. “Sometimes our goals are different, sometimes we need to do things and one of the No. 1 things we’re trying to do here is be sure that we’re being equitable in the treatment of all businesses.”

The presentation looked at why a change might be necessary, what the change would entail and allowed the council to ask questions. 

Crouch said that 90 other cities in Alabama leave business license revocations in the hands of the city council. 

“Certainly what we’re trying to do here is a proposal to put all of the authority for the final enforcement actions in the elected governing body’s hands, which is you, the nine-elected member body by the citizens of Auburn,” Crouch said.

Allison Edge, finance director for the city of Auburn, said that business license revocation discussions have been happening for some time. For instance, one question Edge said the finance department has heard is why the council can’t revoke licenses if it is the body granting them. 

One problem the department sees is businesses that aren’t paying their taxes but are still allowed to operate. 

“Here we are, and we’re still having issues with some businesses as it relates to failure to pay their taxes,” Edge said. “So, the ordinance is being introduced now so that we can make that process reduce the amount of time that businesses are allowed to operate in violation of city code.”

Edge said the Finance Department never wants to close a business. However, taxes must be paid, she said. 

LaTrice Mose, revenue manager for the city of Auburn, explained the current process for dealing with businesses in violation. 

There is a delinquent list held by the city that is thoroughly analyzed to make sure all businesses on that list actually need to be on the list, Mose said. 

Then a notice is sent to the businesses, a notice of delinquency, which she said is similar to a reminder. 

“A majority of our issues are resolved with that initial notice,” she said. 

If the issues are still not resolved, then the staff further looks at the list to make sure that the businesses are open, addresses are correct, etc., Mose said. A second notice is then sent. 

Personal contact is made if businesses remain delinquent — meaning in-person visits if necessary. 

If the issues remain unresolved, businesses are brought to municipal court, Mose said. 

“Now they have to explain to the judge why they’re delinquent,” she said.

Auburn Mayor Ron Anders asked how long this process may take, which Mose said may be three months from noting a business is delinquent to the court process. 

Sometimes it can take another five months or so after that, due to leniency from a judge, payment plans, etc. 

If necessary, the department can ask the council to seek an injunction to close the business or find another way to receive the taxes. 

The change would essentially put the power in the council’s hands. Rather than appear before the council for permission to take the business to court with an injunction, the council could rule to close the business, or offer more time or a payment plan. 

“We avoid the cost of court with this kind of ordinance, we avoid time, so the additional taxes don’t add up and we, hopefully, will come up with a fair decision that’s presumed here,” said Ward 5 Council Member Sonny Moremon.

Crouch said that back in 2007 there was a statewide business license reform act that the city of Auburn did not participate in because a municipal judge at that time thought that the municipal court would have the authority to revoke licenses in the city. However, without this provision, that’s not the case, Crouch said. 

There are businesses operating in Auburn without licenses that haven’t been renewed and aren’t paying their taxes; Mose said this is why the department would like this change made. 

Under health, safety and wellness policy provisions, Crouch reassured the council and citizens that what this refers to is serious concerns, such as a business spewing waste or selling drugs from the business, not a minor zoning violation. 

The proposed ordinance will appear before the council on Jan. 17 to be voted on. 

IN OTHER BUSINESS

– The council approved the purchase of equipment for the soccer complex expansion for over $72,500. 

– The council approved the purchase of a FARO 3D Laser Scanner for the Police Department for FARO Technologies Inc. for over $47,000. 

– The council approved the purchase of 22 H&K MP7A1 rifles and magazines from Gulf States Distributors for the Police Department for over $49,600. 

– The council approved the purchase of an Accurint Virtual Crime Center from LexisNexis Risk Solutions for the Police Department for over $44,300. 

– The council approved the annual renewal of the customer support fee for the Case Management, Computer Automated Dispatch System, Narcotics Management System and Mapping Display System from Southern Software Inc. for the Police Department for over $19,700. 

– The council approved the purchase of a 2023 Ford Explorer from Stivers Ford Lincoln for the Public Safety Administration for over $37,400. 

– The council approved the expansion of a sanitary sewer easement for Clayton Properties Group Inc. for 144 Yarbrough Farms. 

– The council accepted public rights-of-way, drainage and utility easements for Sandhill Acres Development LLC for a property at the north side of Sandhill Road, west of Wrights Mill Road at Hunter’s Hill. 

– The council accepted the expansion of an existing sanitary sewer easement for P and T Properties LLC for lot 177 Yarbrough Farms. 

– The council approved a board appointment to the Board of Education for a term ending May 31, 2026. 

– The council approved a board appointment to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for a term ending Nov. 30, 2026. 

– The council approved the city of Auburn Public Safety Training Center annexation of 9.16 acres at 7384 U.S. Highway 280 W. 

– The council approved the Davis annexation of 6.08 acres for 311 Lee Road 26 for Chase and Kimberley Davis. 

– The council approved the Little Brown Dog LLC and PKG Holdings LLC Annexation for 36.46 acres of property on the north side of Shell Toomer Parkway, between Automotive Boulevard and Canary Drive for Little Brown Dog LLC and PKG Holdings LLC. The council then rezoned the land from rural to large lot residential district. 

– The council declared property surplus and authorized the sale of the property at the Indian Pines Golf Course for Auburn University. The council then approved a lease agreement with Auburn University for the property. 

– The council approved a conditional use approval for a performance residential use at 861 E. Magnolia Ave. for Kurt Hayley, Hayley Management Company. 

– The council approved a tax abatement for ADS-Tec Energy Inc. in the Auburn Industrial Park at 229 Teague Court. 

– The council allocated budgeted funds for industrial land acquisition for the Industrial Development Board of the city of Auburn. 

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