Over the past year, the Grand County Commission has been working on updating Title Five of the county code, which defines business licensing regulations. One goal of the update is to make the licensing process for ATV/UTV businesses align with a noise ordinance passed in the spring of 2021.
Another objective is to collect more data from businesses about how many rooms or tour reservations they’re booking, and a third goal is to help businesses file their taxes correctly. Through investigation of state tax filings, county officials have found that some businesses are likely underreporting or incorrectly reporting their taxes.
Commissioners discussed proposed changes to the code at their Feb. 1 meeting, but voted unanimously to postpone the item until after more input from business owners can be gathered.
Lori McFarland, co-owner of a High Point Hummer, a rental business in Grand County, admonished the commission for considering repealing and replacing of an entire section of code without first holding a public hearing.
“You wrote bad ordinances and made hard deadlines without providing a pathway for compliance. You’ve willfully impeded the commerce of a large class of Grand County businesses and clearly caused damage to my business,” McFarland said.
Updates made to Title Five last year include a requirement that ATV businesses have their fleets tested annually for compliance with the noise ordinance. The current regulation calls for that testing to be completed by the end of January; officials have since learned that many ATV businesses turn over their fleets during the winter, meaning that with the January deadline, they may be testing vehicles that will be sold before the following season. Proposed changes to the code would push the testing deadline to February. Another proposal eases the requirement that every single vehicle in a fleet be tested, and would instead require testing of just one representative vehicle for each make/model/year the business owns. Changes to vehicle identification requirements—how their unique ID numbers are displayed—are also proposed.
Another provision of the code, which was passed last spring, says that three proven code violations by an ATV business or customer of that business could be grounds for revocation of that business’s license. County Attorney Christina Sloan noted that three such violations wouldn’t automatically trigger a license revocation, but could be used as justification for such. Commissioner Jacques Hadler said he would like to see that provision eased in future drafts.
Former head of the Grand County Economic Development Department, Elaine Gizler, had been working on establishing data sources for visitation in the county before moving to a new position in San Juan County. Some of those sources are through software already used by businesses to keep track of room and tour reservations. Commissioners are considering adding some language to Title Five requiring overnight accommodations and vehicle rental businesses to report those kinds of numbers to the county, to help the county get a better idea of visitation patterns.
“It shouldn’t be that hard for us to get a more comprehensive idea of how many people are in the valley on a given weekend,” said Commissioner Kevin Walker, “and how that fluctuates through the week and how it fluctuates season to season.”
Sloan said the provisions focus on motor vehicle businesses and overnight accommodations because they’re some of the larger, faster-growing industries in the county, and businesses in which the community has a high interest.
A proposed new requirement in Title Five would mandate that the party responsible for reporting taxes for an overnight accommodations or motor vehicle business—whether it’s the business owner or an accountant—must take a sales and use tax workshop offered quarterly by the state tax commission. Sloan said the proposed requirements focus on these two types of businesses because she’s aware of underreporting in those sectors.
“We are starting from the assumption that our businesses need more education and more support,” said Sloan. Strategic Development Director Chris Baird explained that the tax structure is complex and can be confusing. Even if a business is reporting the correct total amount of taxes, it may still be categorizing each kind of tax incorrectly, which can affect how that tax is split between the city, the county and the state, and restrictions on how the tax revenue can be spent.
The three-hour tax commission workshops can be attended remotely or in person, Sloan said. She added that they’re intentionally live, rather than pre-recorded, and require engagement from participants.
“It’s a lot of complicated information, and so the tax commission is really committed to continuing to have an interactive process,” said Sloan.
Several business owners called in to the meeting to express their frustration with frequent changes to the business license regulations and what they feel is a singling out of the ATV and overnight accommodations industries for increased scrutiny. Some worried whether they would be able to plan ahead to comply with regulations and maintain their licenses in time for the tourist season to begin. Sloan assured all business owners that they can obtain a temporary business license upon request from the County Clerk’s office.