For the second time, the Ignacio Board of Trustees postponed a vote this week on an ordinance meant to allow the town to revoke business licenses under certain circumstances.
Town-issued licenses are required for businesses to operate within Ignacio, but the town does not have a way to suspend or revoke those business licenses in its legal codes. The proposed ordinance has drawn public pushback, and trustees first delayed their vote in October.
On Monday, they tabled the matter again in a split vote, with some members saying they wanted to better educate the community about the ordinance’s language. The trustees plan to take up the matter again during a special meeting Nov. 30.
“I think as a whole, yes, it’s going to pass,” said Mayor Stella Cox, who voted against the delay. “I think the trustees wanted to give more opportunity to get the ordinance out to the business owners.”
Town officials first became aware that its legal codes did not include business license enforcement while considering enforcement measures against Farmers Fresh Market.
The store has not complied with coronavirus-related state public health orders for months. One possible enforcement action for continued noncompliance is the revocation of its business license.
“To me, Farmers Fresh is just the one that brought it up. It’s not an issue with Farmers Fresh, it’s an issue with the town ordinance,” said Trustee Tom Atencio, who voted in favor of the delay.
It would help the town with code enforcement for a variety of issues and sewer, electrical or any other safety or health-related issues, he said.
The ordinance offers specific guidelines for when licenses can be suspended, revoked or not renewed.
If it is approved, the town could take action in various situations, like if the licensee violates town, county, state or federal ordinances; the license is obtained by fraud or misrepresentation; business fees and taxes are not paid; and the business threatens the life, safety or health of the public.
During the board meeting Monday, four trustees voted in favor of delaying the vote: Atencio, Sharon Craig, Edward Box and Dixie Melton. Cox, Mayor Pro Tem Alison deKay and Trustee Sandra Maez voted against the delay.
Some board members felt there was a sense of urgency because of the rising COVID-19 cases in the area. They did not want to wait another month to try to give the town enforcement capabilities, said Mark Garcia, interim town manager.
“I didn’t really see (the delay) making a difference,” Cox said. “I appreciate the efforts to reach out; however, I didn’t think it was going to have any new information about what we were already seeing.”
Others felt the business community did not have a good understanding of the code changes and wanted to reach out to the community for input.
“From the beginning of this process, I did not feel like the ordinance was an emergency,” Craig said. “My suggestion was that we take a look at it as we rewrite our municipal code. When we received the draft ordinance, I felt it was very aggressive for Ignacio.”
Atencio volunteered to meet with business owners to gather feedback about the ordinance. Many had not read it, but those who were familiar with it supported the idea, he said.
“It concerns the whole town. ... It gives us the necessary strength to do something if we have to,” Atencio said. “To me, it’s something that the town needs to have.”