Taverns suffering financially from state-imposed closures due to COVID-19 in Benld will have a reprieve from paying for liquor licenses for the coming year as a result of action taken by the Benld City Council Monday night.
With one dissenting vote, the council approved the measure to waive all but $10 of the $400 license renewal fee for current license holders for 2021.
Mayor Jim Kelly proposed the measure, but Ald. Jim Tilashalki, who cast the sole dissenting vote, objected, citing the impact on city finances. He proposed a more complicated formula waiving $1 per day for every day local taverns have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Without these businesses, we’d be in a world of hurt,” said Ald. John Balzraine, who moved to waive the entire $400 licensing fee. He amended the motion to require a token $10 after City Attorney Rick Verticchio said state law requires the city to charge a fee for liquor licenses.
Balzraine and Kelly pointed out that despite the city’s action, local businesses will still have to pay state licensing fees as well as licensing fees for video gaming machines.
CHRONIC PUBLIC NUISANCE PROPERTIES
Council members voted unanimously to adopt a sweeping new ordinance establishing a definition of a chronic nuisance property and setting out penalties the city can pursue in the event a location is declared a chronic nuisance property. The city has had a long-standing public nuisance ordinance to address derelict properties and accumulations of trash, but the chronic nuisance ordinance is directed at locations where residents or other individuals are habitually prone to criminal activity or excessive noise and other activities that disturb the public peace.
The list of offenses include excessive noise, controlled substance violations, unlawful discharge of firearms, public intoxication, battery and domestic battery, sex crimes and other violations.
“I think it’s very thorough,” said Ald. Tilashalski, who chairs the council’s Ordinance Committee.
Under terms of the ordinance, city police are required to serve notice on property owners after the first violation to notify the offenders that the property is in danger of being declared a chronic nuisance. Offenders will be required to agree to a mutually agreed-upon plan for mitigating the nuisance.
After a second offense, offenders will again be given an opportunity to mitigate the situation. Upon a third offense, the city is empowered to seek remediation in court.
Remedies can include forcing closure of the public for habitation for a period of 30 to 365 days.
OPEN BURNING ORDINANCE
The council also was unanimous in approving an ordinance related to open burning and the use of wood-burning furnaces. The ordinance allows for the burning of yard waste from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except for Sunday, and bans the burning of rubbish, waste oil, building materials, plastics and paper products that can be recycled.
Recreational wood fires are allowed from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., but must be located no closer than 25 feet from buildings on neighboring properties.
The ordinance includes provisions governing outdoor wood-fired furnaces. Under the ordinance, wood-fired furnaces must be located at least 20 feet from any building located on neighboring properties. Furnaces located less than 100 from a neighboring residence must be equipped with a chimney that is at least as tall as the tallest neighboring roofline.
Council members unanimously approved an ordinance amendment to extend the provision for compulsory attendance to all elected officials for city council meetings. Previously, the provision applied only to city aldermen.
The ordinance precludes elected officials from receiving compensation for any missed meetings if the official has previously missed two regularly scheduled meetings without an excuse approved by the council.
In other action, the council:
- Approved a schedule for regular monthly meetings of the council for 2021 setting the meeting times and dates for 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month.
- Approved a business license application for D & R Automotive at 501 East Central Avenue.