After noticing several ordinance violations and other commercial concerns in the area he represents, District 1 Councilman Richard DelFino III is taking steps to ensure that Johnston businesses are compliant and legal.
“We focused on an area in town, Buck Hill Road, I’ve been up there quite a few times. What I found was, when I was going through the annual renewal of business licenses, I found businesses that owe taxes, and businesses that were not compliant with ordinances and things like that,” said DelFino.
At May’s Town Council meeting, the body approved 2017-CP-85, the renewal of all town business license for 2017-2018, with the exception several business in the district for outstanding taxes and other concerns. Those businesses were requested to appear before the council to take corrective measures for outstanding violations. .
“Very often I travel through the district, checking out different areas and different things that are taking place. I happened travel to the Buck Hill Road area and was alarmed by what I had seen as far as property maintenance, ordinance violations, and unregistered vehicles all over the road,” said DelFino.
DelFino stated that Johnston is a “very, very business friendly community” and that there are many good businesses in town. He said that the town is proud of those businesses and of the relationship between community and businesses. But he believes it’s not fair to the business owners, taxpayers, and people that follow the rules for these others enterprises to slip through.
“When I was made aware of the businesses I asked for tax information from the clerk’s office who facilitated through the tax office, I wanted to ensure compliance, there are rules and rules are meant to be followed,” said the councilman. “To purposely not follow the rules, not pay your taxes, not be compliant is bothersome to me.”
In a recent interview, DelFino had a stack of reports from the police of ordinance and other violations. According to the councilman, ordinance enforcement through the police department visited the area did some investigative work.
“When I got the report and saw that some of them owed taxes I didn’t give an annual renewal. I wanted those people to come in and get things resolved. It’s people following the procedures and the protocols and ensuring that quality of life issues are addressed,” said DelFino.
Half a dozen businesses were found non-compliant, with violations that included no business license found on file, unregistered vehicles on the property- in some cases more than a dozen - no business name or ownership information not available with the town.
“Out of the found violations, now we’ve recouped some tax money, we’ve recouped some license fees that we didn’t have,” said DelFino. “Ordinance violations have been rectified. Police issues, such as unregistered vehicles, have been corrected.”
DelFino’s efforts have taken several months and additional legwork, but he believes that the changes will provide for a better business community.
“It’s a quality of life issue, and I take those complaints seriously and look to work out a resolution and you’re forced to do something like this. For the hard working small business owner who struggles, or maybe doesn’t struggle, but they have to pay their taxes and whatever fees and follow the rules and enjoy success in town.”
The district is now beginning to see more compliance to the town’s codes, and DelFino said that the last time the inspector visited the area, there was good progress being made. No businesses were closed as a result of the initiative. Neighbors who continue to notice violations may call DelFino, or the police if there is an urgent matter.
“I’m willing to work with businesses. They should follow proper protocols and if they don’t know what they are, call me, I’m happy to have a conversation,” said DelFino. “Or call the clerk’s office and find out what paperwork is needed to be a registered business in town.”