Council Says Business Licenses In Jeopardy Because Of Back Taxes

by | May 1, 2014

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This story was amended and updated on May 1, 2014, at 10 a.m.

Two second-hand dealers could lose their business licenses if sizable back tax bills are not paid up. The Town Council  is giving those businesses and two others owing much smaller amounts until June 9 to resolve their issues or face being closed down.

The council only began cross-checking tax liabilities when renewing licenses last fall, when several restaurant liquor and victualing licenses came due. Unable to pay what they owed even after being granted two extensions, Norman’s and Rok Bar closed in January.

The council was voting on second-hand dealer licenses Monday night and four businesses housed in buildings owing back taxes: Karma Couture ($108), Lost Treasures ($75), Lina Piccolina ($3,500 in back property taxes and $4,600 in sewer fees), and Worth Repeating ($18,000 in back property taxes, $11,000 in sewer fees, and $4,900 in fire district taxes – a holdover from before the fire district was incorporated into the town last year).

Worth Repeating’s Arlette Cornwall was the only business owner at the meeting; she is also the owner of the building where the business is housed and so is responsible for the taxes. She promised to make an immediate $14,000 payment, pay another $4,000 in May, then pay $800 toward the bill every month until it was paid off. UPDATE: According to Town Clerk Leigh Botello, Cornwall paid $18,000 toward her back taxes on Wednesday, April 30, bringing her total unpaid bill down to $15,900.

“Most everyone else on Main Street is paying their real estate taxes,” said Councilman Jeff Cianciolo. “The timetable you’re proposing doesn’t really resonate with me.”

“I wanted to make a commitment I knew I could fulfill,” said Cornwall.

Councilman Mark Gee said he found himself in a tough situation, acknowledging his friendship with Cornwall – “our kids play sports together.”

But, he said, “It’s unfair to the other shop owners on Main Street. I felt very strongly about the restaurant issue and I feel the same with Arlette…. Anything longer than 30 days, we’ve got to face the reality that is there a problem.”

Councilman Mike Kiernan argued Cornwall’s immediate large payment should be a sign of good faith.

“Give her more than 30 days,” he said. “Let her get back on her feet.”

In the case of Lina Piccolina, a children’s clothing consignment shop at 58 Main Street, the back taxes and sewer fees are owed by the owner of the building, NOT the owner of Lina Piccolina. Yet the shop owner’s license is at risk.

Here’s the ordinance:

Section 227-38

No license or permit which the Town Council is empowered to grant will be issued or renewed to any person who is currently in arrears in any tax, lien, or assessment levied by the Town

No license or permit which the Town Council is empowered to grant will be issued or renewed to any person renting, letting, leasing, or otherwise hiring premises in the Town for the purpose of carrying on the licensed activity from an owner or landlord who is in arrears in any tax, lien, or assessment levied by the Town.

The council eventually decided to give the business owners until June 9 to settle the tax issues.

Councilman Brad Bishop lauded Cornwall for appearing before the panel when other business owners did not.

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