The District of Sooke is pushing forward with changes to update its business licence bylaw.
This week, District council agreed in a 4-2 vote that all businesses must hold a business licence, including farm stands excluded in the original bylaw.
The idea of farm stands requiring business licences delayed the bylaw for months. Council requested more information from district staff on two occasions and asked for recommendations from its community economic development committee. Finally, the committee came back last week, suggesting all businesses be required to obtain a licence.
Council began debating changes to the bylaw in March with the idea of modernizing the document.
The original bylaw was adopted in 2007, introducing the concept of business licensing to Sooke and outlining the process for issuing first-time licences. However, according to a municipal staff report, after 14 years and three amendment bylaws, Sooke’s business landscape has shifted to where a new bylaw is necessary.
A draft of the new bylaw included farm stands, cannabis stores and mobile food vendors for the first time.
At the June 14 council meeting, councillors debated for more than 40 minutes whether every business should be required to have a licence or if some businesses, such as farm stands, should be exempt.
Several councillors argued the accountability of having a business licence.
“If each different type of business has to have a different classification of a licence, it is going to become more and more onerous on (municipal) staff to keep track of the various business licences,” Coun. Dana Lajeunesse.
Coun. Ebony Logins, who favours business licences for all merchants, agreed.
“We need to be accountable to the safety in our community by ensuring we have this bylaw in place,” she said.
Couns. Al Beddows, Tony St-Pierre and Jeff Bateman were concerned some businesses, such as a farmstand or farmers, do not make enough money to warrant a full business licence. The trio suggested a sliding scale or an exemption of fees.
“Any bylaws put forward should be to the benefit of the community,” St-Pierre said.
District staff will prepare a proposed business licence bylaw and include new fees. Council still has the option of deciding whether all businesses will require a licence to operate in Sooke before the bylaw receives third reading.
The bylaw is expected to be adopted this summer.