Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be news that a legislative body was considering legislation. But Ferguson City Council has been stuck in park for a while, with no substantive legislation considered. At last night’s council meeting, four measures were put forward by Councilor Palmer. But even that almost did not happen. According to Mr. Palmer, the bills were submitted to the city clerk on October 18, and he emailed them to council for discussion on October 19. But they were not placed on the agenda for first reading. Palmer started the meeting by moving to add them to the agenda, which prevailed after an objection from councilor Ashby, who complained that they did not have sufficient time to discuss the measures prior to their introduction.
The first bill concerns liquor license renewals. Under a longstanding provision of city code, liquor licenses may not be renewed unless property taxes on the building are paid, regardless of whether the licensee owns the building. Unfortunately, the city clerk and council have failed to enforce this provision, and property taxes are delinquent on buildings housing R&R Mini Mart, Midwest Wine Bar, USA Market, and the BP Station at Florissant and Woodstock. Unpaid taxes on the properties total more than $160,000. The proposed measure reiterates the responsibility of the city clerk to verify compliance, and requires notice by certified mail to both the license holder and property owner if unpaid taxes present a bar to renewal. In addition, the measure increases minimum non-liquor inventory requirements from $1,000 to $10,000. The inventory requirement was set in 1973, and has not been updated since then.
The second measure requires that, similar to liquor licenses, business licenses can only be issued if property taxes are paid. Since business licenses are issued by the finance department, the responsibility for verification and notices is placed upon the director of finance rather than the city clerk. There are presently a great number of businesses in buildings which are delinquent on property taxes, including Midwest Wine Bar, Cathy’s Kitchen, Pop Pop Hurray, Exotic Trenz salon, anything that remains in the strip mall and office building across from the Boys and Girls Club, occupants of the strip mall including USA Market and Dellwood Washer & Dryer, All Thing Automotive, Aboard Rent-A-Car, and likely others we’ve missed.
The next measure pertains to car dealerships and related businesses. It requires that cars offered for sale be parked with the same spacing requirements as the city requires of other parking lots. It specifically prohibits parking cars “shoulder to shoulder” to squeeze more onto a lot. And it places limits on the quantity and length of time which inoperable vehicles may be stored.
Finally, there is a bill which eliminates “double dipping” by the city in regard to building permit fees. Under the current code, there is a permit fee based upon the cost of the project. In addition, if the city decides to hire outside consulting advice to review the permit, the applicant is responsible for the cost of the consultant. This bill specifies that the permit fee must be applied to the cost, and that the applicant remains responsible for any fees which exceed that which have already been paid.
Each of these ordinances, which we have included below for our reader’s edification, represent a step in the right direction for a well managed city. We look forward to their passage at the next council meeting.