Crowd attends workshop to oppose Seaford business licensing proposal

By Lynn R. Parks

Opponents of a proposed business and rental license crowded into Seaford City Hall Tuesday night for a second public workshop on the proposal. Of the about 60 people who filled council chambers, nearly 20 spoke against the license. Most of the speeches were greeted with vigorous applause. No one spoke in favor of the licensing proposal. "This is the second trip I have made here to a packed house," business and rental property owner Dick Collison told the council. "I have not heard one person speak in favor of this license. I talk to a lot of people during the day, and I have not heard one person in favor of it. If you represent the people, you have to vote against this." "This would be an unfair burden on us, because the costs will get passed onto us," said William Cafferty, who rents an apartment in Colonial Gardens on Shipley Street. "The city would be inspecting yearly when the landlord already takes real good care of the apartments." Charles Anderson, then the city's director of operations, first pitched the idea of a business and rental license at the Oct. 24, 2006, city council meeting. The first workshop on the proposal was held in November. Tuesday night, Anderson, now assistant city manager, gave the same presentation that he gave in October. In it, he 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. Fees would be paid every year. Anderson said that a fee structure such as the one he presented would bring about $153,800 per year into the city. Cost to the city of maintaining the program would be about $75,000, he said. "This is just a program to make money," Larry Manlove, owner of Manlove Lawn and Landscape, said. "But," he predicted, "this will cost more than the revenue it will generate." "This is all being revenue driven," added Russell Wells, who owns rental properties in town. "But there is no support for this." Wells added that state regulations regarding rental properties are adequate. "The city hasn't been involved in regulating businesses for a couple hundred years," he said. "Why get involved now?" Several people said that the annual inspections that would accompany the rental license would be intrusive. "I don't like what you are trying to do and I don't understand why you want to do it," said real estate agent and rental property owner Fran Ruark. "Inspections are an invasion of privacy." Sharon Kensinger is president of East Coast Management, which manages five rent-subsidized apartment complexes in Seaford, including Chandler Heights and Chandler Heights II. She said that those apartments are inspected at least four times a year, including twice by East Coast Management, once by a federal agency and once by a state agency. Kensinger also asked that the license, if it is enacted, exclude non-profit organizations. The proposal does not contain an exclusion for non-profits.

All five of the complexes managed by East Coast Management are owned by Better Homes of Seaford, a non-profit organization. "Any fees have to be passed onto the tenants, because the money is not there otherwise," she said. "This would be another undue burden on people who are already in financial straits." Herb Quick, senior warden at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, also argued for an exclusion for non-profit groups. "Our diocese has 39 congregations in the state, and nobody is required to have a business license," he said. "How have you measured the impact this will have on churches and their mission work?" But rental property owner Wells argued against any exclusion for non-profit organizations. "My tenants struggle, too, just like people in subsidized apartments," he said. "If there are any exceptions, the city is opening itself up to lawsuits." Bruce Pollack, who owns rental properties in town, argued that a rental license and annual inspections constitute unreasonable search and seizure, prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. "Giving that kind of police power to the government opens you up to abuses and bribery problems that you don't need," he said. "This is just giving the government another lever to use against the people." George Farnell, whose real estate company, Callaway, Farnell and Moore, manages Colonial Gardens and Bradford Terrace apartment complexes, said that any rental fees should be paid by landlords who do not keep up their properties. "These charges should be passed onto people whose properties should be inspected, and I'm sure there are some," he said. "The good people, who don't need rules and regulations, will be the ones to pay for this," added Bunnie Williams, owner of Shamrock Glass. She suggested that, instead of imposing a general rental fee, the city fine errant landlords "into oblivion." Rental property owner Dale Short agreed. "All good landlords will end up paying for the ones who don't care," he said. "The people in Seaford don't need to be policed." Throughout the workshop, no one from the city council spoke. Wednesday morning, Mayor Ed Butler said that the business and rental license proposal will come up for a possible vote at the city council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 9. Butler, who has endorsed the licensing proposal, added that he was pleased with the turnout at Tuesday's workshop. "This is what democracy is all about," he said.

Nanticoke Bike Tour takes place Saturday at Boys and Girls Club
The ninth annual Nanticoke Bike Tour will take place Saturday, Sept. 22, starting at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club, 310 Va. Ave., Seaford. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. and the tour starts at 8:30 a.m. Pre-tour day registration is $30. Riders can choose from routes of 25 and 50 miles along rural roads in western Sussex County and Maryland. The routes are well marked and rest stops will be provided. All participants will receive a T-shirt and lunch. For more information, contact Karen Schreiber at 629-8740, check out the website at www.nanticokebiketour.com or email to ronmacky45@hotmail.com. All proceeds benefit the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club.

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