Council approves Fayetteville business license proposal

Beginning next year, operating a businesses or a non-profit organization in Fayetteville will require a permit.

The Fayetteville City Council approved an ordinance to establish a business license and registry program by a vote of 6-2 during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Since eliminating business licenses in 1981, officials have discussed bringing back the program several times, but a new plan has never left the ordinance review committee until now. The most recent plan surfaced earlier this year and quickly gained support from city staff and the Chamber of Commerce.

The city says the program will provide a way to keep tabs on economic and job growth, as well as help improve public safety and aid in addressing code and tax violations.

Chamber officials say being able to provide this kind of information could help the Chamber convince new businesses to move to Fayetteville.

“We need this information on how we’re doing, where the gaps are and where the opportunities are,” said Chung Tan, the chamber’s economic development manager. “Right now, we’re not able to do that in a good manner.”

“If it’s a business with a storefront that hangs up a ‘Coming Soon’ sign, it’s easier for us to find them,” said Tan. But other businesses, such as those operating from a residence or an office building, are difficult to locate, she said.

“I own a small business and I think this will be a good resource,” said alderwoman Sarah Lewis. “I think it will help [the city] better communicate with business so that they’ll know what is expected in our community.”

Aldermen Kyle Cook and Bobby Ferrell cast the two ‘no’ votes.

Since its inception, the permit fee has been reduced from $64 to $35. If applications are submitted online, the fee is $32. For home-based businesses, the cost is $22 for paper applications and $20 for electronic submissions. The annual renewal fee is $15.

Currently, businesses are required to pay a $25 zoning compliance fee, but Fayetteville Chief of Staff Don Marr said that fee will be incorporated into the new business license fee.

“So we’re really only talking about a $10 difference in what is required today,” said Marr.

The fee is not a way to generate income, added Marr. Rather, the money will offset the cost for implementing the plan.

Businesses can begin registering Sept. 1, 2011, and must have a license by Nov. 1, 2011.

Business license FAQs

Who must register?
All businesses, institutions, corporations, LLCs, LLPs, partnerships, non-profit associations or corporations, sole proprietorships or other non-governmental entities with a physical address or which operates a legally permitted home occupation. Businesses with multiple physical addresses must obtain a separate license for each address.
How about religious entities?
Churches and other religious institutions are exempt from the program unless they are operating functions like daycare.
And minors?
Individuals under eighteen years of age are exempt.
Do landlords have to register?
Individual landlords not operating as a corporation, LLC, LLP, or any other formal business entity, who rent out less than three (3) dwelling units, and no commercial, industrial, or institutional unit, site or building are exempt.
How much is it?
Registration is $35 for regular businesses and $22 for home-based businesses (there’s a discount of a few bucks if registering online). Annual renewals are $15.
Is there a penalty?
Yes. Operating without a license is a violation punishable by a fine up to $250 per day.
Do other cities around here require business licenses?
Rogers, Springdale and Lowell require licenses. Bentonville does not. Ft. Smith has a business license program, but does not charge a fee.