Over the past year, the Grand County Commission has worked to update Title Five of the county code, which outlines business licensing regulations. One of the goals of the update is to align the licensing process for ATV/UTV companies with a noise ordinance passed in the spring of 2021.
Another goal is to collect more data from businesses on how many rooms or tour bookings they book, and a third goal is to help businesses file their taxes correctly. While investigating state tax returns, county officials found that some businesses were likely underreporting or misreporting their taxes.
Commissioners discussed the proposed changes to the code at their Feb. 1 meeting, but voted unanimously to postpone the item until more feedback from business owners could be gathered.
Lori McFarland, co-owner of a High Point Hummer, a rental business in Grand County, chastised the commission for considering repealing and replacing an entire section of the code without first holding a public hearing.
“You wrote bad orders and set strict deadlines without providing a path to compliance. You deliberately obstructed the commerce of a large class of Grand County businesses and clearly caused damage to my business,” McFarland said.
Updates to Title Five last year include a requirement that ATV companies have their fleets tested annually to comply with the noise ordinance. Current regulations require these tests to be completed by the end of January; Officials have since learned that many ATV companies renew their fleets over the winter, which means that with the January deadline, they could test vehicles that will be sold before the following season. The proposed changes to the code would push the deadline for testing to February. Another proposal relaxes the requirement that every vehicle in a fleet must be tested, and would instead require testing a single representative vehicle for each make/model/year the company owns. Changes to vehicle identification requirements – the way their unique identification numbers are displayed – are also proposed.
Another provision of the code, which was passed last spring, states that three proven violations of the code by an ATV company or a customer of that company could be grounds for revocation of that company’s license. County Attorney Christina Sloan noted that three such violations would not automatically trigger a license revocation, but could be used as justification. Commissioner Jacques Hadler said he would like this provision to be relaxed in future projects.
Former Grand County Department of Economic Development Chief Elaine Gizler had worked on establishing data sources for county visitation before moving to a new position in San Juan County. Some of these sources come from software already used by companies to track room and tour bookings. The commissioners are considering adding language to Title Five requiring overnight accommodations and vehicle rental companies to report these types 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 fuller picture of how many people are in the Valley on any given weekend,” Commissioner Kevin Walker said, “and how that fluctuates over the week and how it fluctuates from season to season.”
Sloan said the provisions focus on motor vehicle businesses and overnight accommodations because they are among the largest and fastest growing industries in the county and businesses in which the community has a strong interest. .
A proposed new requirement in Title Five would require the party responsible for reporting taxes for a lodging or motor vehicle business – whether the business owner or an accountant – to follow 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 is aware of under-reporting in these sectors.
“We start from the principle that our businesses need more education and more support,” Sloan said. Director of Strategic Development Chris Baird explained that the tax structure is complex and can be confusing. Even if a business reports the correct total amount of taxes, it may still classify each type of tax incorrectly, which can affect the distribution of that tax between city, county, and state, and restrictions on how which tax revenue can be spent.
The tax commission’s three-hour workshops can be taken remotely or in person, Sloan said. She added that they are intentionally live, rather than pre-recorded, and require participant engagement.
“It’s a lot of complicated information, and so the tax board is really committed to continuing to have an interactive process,” Sloan said.
Several business owners called into the meeting to express their frustration with the frequent changes to business licensing regulations and what they believe is a distinction of the ATV and overnight accommodation industries for further scrutiny. thorough. Some worried about whether they would be able to plan ahead to comply with regulations and maintain their licenses in time for the start of the tourist season. Sloan assured all business owners that they could obtain a temporary business license upon request from the county clerk’s office.