Public will be given another chance to comment on licensing

By Lynn R. Parks

Members of the public will have another opportunity to speak out about the city of Seaford's proposed business and rental license. A second workshop on the licensing proposal will be Tuesday, Sept. 18, starting at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers in city hall. The city held its first public workshop on the proposal in November. At that time, nearly two dozen business people and landlords protested the license, calling it "bad law" and "heavy-handed intrusion." But Councilman Rhea Shannon told the group that requiring that business owners and landlords have licenses would help protect the town from decay. "We are trying to save the town," he said. In December, Mayor Ed Butler called for a council vote on whether to move forward with the licensing proposal. The vote to do so was 4 to 1, with Councilwoman Pat Jones casting the lone "no." Following the meeting, Jones said that the lack of a business and rental license is part of what sets Seaford apart from other Sussex County towns. "If this is one of the things that make us unique, we should keep it that way," she said.

As proposed, the program would require that all business owners and owners of rental property be licensed. The city would be able to make regular inspections of rental properties, to ensure that they are up to code. In his Oct. 24 presentation of the licensing proposal, then city director of operations Charles Anderson included a suggested fee structure. Under that structure, general business licenses would cost $75. A hotel or motel would pay an additional $10 per room. Warehouses and retailers whose facilities are larger than 10,000 square feet would pay $300. Landlords would pay $50 for each apartment they own, $10 per room if they just rent out rooms. Owners of rented storage units would pay $2 per unit. Non-profit organizations would not be exempt. Fees would be paid every year. City manager Dolores Slatcher told the people gathered at the November workshop that the licensing program would allow the city to better control conditions in rental properties. "We have a number of issues with rental properties and the landlord is not available," she said. "We live in a more mobile society, a more absentee society, and one of the ways to gather information about landlords is through a license."

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