Catasauqua Press

Monday, January 21, 2019

Business registration ordinance passed

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Local News

Controversial legislation has fee, could prevent borough zoning breaches

Borough Councilwoman Debra Mellish has been a strong proponent of legislation that requires all businesses in Catasauqua to register. The registration process is necessary for safety reasons, according to its proponents, and provides the borough with data on businesses.

During the Dec. 4 council meeting, Police Chief Douglas Kish spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“Businesses move out, and we don’t get alerted to the change. The information we have on file is out of date, so we can’t respond effectively in an emergency,” he said.

An example is that a new business may have an alarm system or contact information that is not on file. Police would then have the former owner’s information instead of updated details. Not having the appropriate data delays police response.

According to Kish, police keep a floor plan of all businesses and the type of business it is. The information is readily available to a police officer on patrol. The information pops up on a computer screen.

“It helps us if we know the layout so we can see where someone might hide and not be immediately detected. If the floor plans change with a new business, we are in the dark about how the place looks,” he said.

The ordinance originated during the borough’s dispute with Feline Finish Line. The borough ruled that housing cats in a residential area is a business and should not be allowed. The borough alleged the owner willfully hid her intentions, trying to circumvent zoning laws.

Borough Manager Eugene Goldfeder contends the registration ordinance would prevent unauthorized breaches of zoning restrictions.

Three members of council opposed the ordinance — Councilmen Brian Bartholomew and Eugene Schlegel and Councilwoman Jessica Kroope. The trio had numerous objections. The first point of discontent was the cost and the extent of reporting. The ordinance has a fee of $25.

The second objection is that every business needs to register. Make bows for the American Legion craft show? Costs you $25. Help your brother-in-law with his accounting books? Also $25. Each business you have is another $25. And that is a cost incurred every year.

There is no distinction if the business is profitable or not profitable. It still costs $25. Technically, if you take work home from the office, you need to register. Realtors taking calls in their home — $25. Council President Vincent Smith said there would be practical considerations. Each case could be different.

“If someone has a question, they can just call the borough office to see if the ordinance applies to their business,” he said.

The opposition suggested there is validity in Kish’s request for updated data.

“There are other ways the borough can obtain the information,” Kroope said. “The police already have most of the data, and they have a process of collecting it.”

Bartholomew asked who was going to enforce compliance.

“We have plenty of ordinances like this that we can’t enforce now,” he said.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 4 to 3.