Commission will hear report on Ordinance 95

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Commission will hear a report on Tuesday about the county's controversial business registration ordinance.

The used car dealership Credit Express is located in Waterflow. President Mike Warren says it has been harder for him to file his required business paperwork with the county every year.

County Community Development Administrator Larry Hathaway will present the report during the meeting at 5 p.m. at the county building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.

Ordinance 95, also known as the business registration ordinance, passed in January by a 3-2 vote. Some residents and commissioners believed the ordinance was government overreach and could lead to violations of property rights.

Commission Chairman Scott Eckstein urged residents during a February meeting to wait a year and observe how the business ordinance works. During the February meeting, Eckstein said it could be repealed if the ordinance violated property rights.

The ordinance is intended to help San Juan County identify businesses with hazardous materials. Businesses that indicate on the registration that there are hazardous materials on their property are then inspected by the county fire department. The intent of the inspection is to help develop emergency response plans for the businesses and keep the volunteer firefighters safe, according to The Daily Times archives.

Darci Moss, who lives north of Aztec, was one of the more vocal opponents of the measure. Moss registered her family's business after the ordinance passed. She said the county fire department has not inspected the business.

The inspections were one of the controversial aspects of the ordinance. Moss said many county businesses are operated out of people's houses. Her family business is no exception, as an office is attached to Moss' house.

"I don't think anyone should have the right to come onto your property for any reason," she said.

Moss said she is still concerned about the wording of the ordinance, which she fears could lead to noncompliant businesses being shut down. She said she worries the ordinance will serve as a "back door" for the county to institute zoning requirements and that she fears the county may try to zone her property as commercial. A commercial zoning could lead to increased property taxes, Moss said.

Mike Warren, the president of Credit Express in Waterflow, said he had not been informed of the business registration ordinance. Warren has been selling cars at his business for the last 25 years. He said it has been harder for him to file the required business paperwork each year.

Warren said he opposes additional regulations that do not provide significant benefits. Warren said his business already draws regular inspections from the San Juan County Fire Department.

One of the reasons cited for a business registration ordinance was that it would protect car dealers like Warren from illegal competition. People who sell more than five cars a year are required to get a state business license, but some dealers sell used cars along the road without getting a business license.

"It's an unfair advantage," Warren said.

He said the illegal dealers do not have to pay registration fees or business insurance. Despite that, Warren said he still opposes additional regulations.

"It's not a big enough concern for me that I would be willing to do a lot of extra work," Warren said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.