Business License Ordinance Nears Approval In OC

OCEAN CITY – The ordinance outlining amendments to hearings and appeals of business license fines, suspensions and revocations was discussed and passed on first reading at Monday evenings Mayor and Council meeting.  

The ordinance will amend Chapter 14 entitled businesses and aims to add more teeth to the ordinance governing the suspension and revocation of business licenses. Through changes in fines, hearings, and appeals, the Mayor and Council hopes to crack down on business license violators.

The ordinance now gives the city manager the right to fine a licensee in lieu of suspension. The ordinance reads, “If mitigating circumstances so warrant, in lieu of suspension, the city manager may levy a fine not to exceed $1000 per violation.”

The ordinance also saw changes after the Mayor and Council suggested earlier this summer that a hearing be held sooner, rather than three to five months after the violation. The ordinance calls for the city manager to schedule a hearing within 72 hours of the violation.

The appeal time was also shortened in hopes of quickening the license suspension and revocation process. The aggrieved licensee will have 10 days from receiving the fine, suspension or revocation to file an appeal with the Mayor and Council. The city manager must then set a date for the hearing within three days. If the council denies the appeal at that hearing, the licensee must wait at least 12 months from the date of the council’s decision to re-apply.

After reviewing the outlined provisions of the ordinance, the council weighed in on whether the ordinance would achieve the desired goal. Councilman Jay Hancock voiced his opinion on serving the licensee in violation. The ordinance states “the city manager shall notify the licensee of the alleged violation by hand delivery or certified mail.”

Hancock suggested that some sort of agent be allowed to accept the violation so as to avoid the licensee leaving town and avoiding receipt of the violation. Hancock explained a licensee could leave his business in the hands of someone else, leave town for 30 to 60 days and essentially avoid receiving the violation.

“People take great steps to avoid being notified,” Hancock said.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres suggested the council move forward and approve the ordinance on first reading while he adds something to the ordinance to cover that type of situation.

Councilman Jim Hall suggested the property be posted so customers are aware that the licensee is in violation.