Hyattsville Council Closes License Loophole

"Do we have to worry that we have other things that we've missed and that we have other things on the books that we have to go back and make sure are effective?" - Ward Two Councilor Shani Warner

The Hyattsville City Council approved a pair of emergency measures designed to correct a procedural snafu which invalidated an earlier set of business regulations approved this past October. 

The October revisions modified the appeals process for building code violations and business license revocations. It also contained a small section regulating parking for bed and breakfast establishments in the city. Because it contained a parking regulation revision, the entire measure needed to be approved by the County Council before it could become effective. But it was never forwarded to the County Council for approval. 

Ward Two Councilor Shani Warner wanted to know how this step was overlooked. 

"Is that something we usually look to our lawyer to do–or city staff?" asked Warner. "It certaintly wasn't something that was on my radar as something that needed to be done."

"Do we have to worry that we have other things that we've missed and that we have other things on the books that we have to go back and make sure are effective," continued Warner. 

City Attorney Richard Colaresi blamed the oversight on city staff. He said that from now on any measures which need County Council approval will be noted in the headings. He also said that it was unlikely that there were other accidentally invalid laws on Hyattsville's books.

The snafu came to light last week when attorney's for a business whose license was revoked under the October revisions–after police found 58 pounds of marijuana inside–pointed out the oversight. In an effort to be legally prudent, city officials reinstated the business license and admitted that the law was likely not enforceable.

Colaresi split the October revisions into two code articles, one for general business regulations, and one for bed and breakfast regulations which need county approval.

The revisions add several sections of new language which expand the power of city officials to revoke a business license. 

For instance, language was added explicitly allowing the city to consider a property or business' past history when deliberating licenses revocation. 

It also describes the appeals process for business owners subjected to license revocation. Now, the City Council is removed from the business license appeals process. In their place, the appeals process will be administered and decided by city staff. Colaresi said this was to protect City Council members from legal liability which could arise from their appeal decisions. 

"It's really a protection for the council, to stay out of the administrative procedures," said Colaresi.

The City Council unanimously approved both articles as emergency measures.


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