Douglas County commissioners were told Wednesday they may have to quickly begin the process to shut down as many as 18 rural, home-based businesses early next year.
County Zoning and Codes Director Keith Dabney told commissioners at their regular meeting he believed there were at least 18 rural-homed based businesses who run the risk of being shut down because they have not yet registered for a permit under the county's new home occupation regulations. Deadline to register is Dec. 31.
The businesses Dabney and commissioners are most concerned about are ones labeled "type III" under the county's new regulations. Type III businesses are generally those home-based businesses with more than four employees or that are industrial in nature.
The new regulations give type III businesses a five-year period to bring their business into compliance with the new rules, if they register by Dec. 31. If they don't register, they must begin complying with the new regulations immediately, a task commissioners believe will be difficult, if not impossible, for many.
All three commissioners said Wednesday they weren't going to back down from the regulations, noting that 151 businesses have already agreed to comply with the new rules.
"We can't treat people who comply with the law like chumps," Commissioner Charles Jones said. "There are many who have complied with the law, so those who haven't complied with the law must pay the price."
The price may come in the form of charges in Douglas County District Court for violating the county's zoning codes. Under that law, property owners can be fined up to $500 a day for each violation, and a judge can immediately order a business closed.
"I guess this situation will ultimately wind up in a court of law," County Commissioner Bob Johnson said. "That would be the worst result because that is not what we want to do, but we will."
Businesses still have time to register by contacting the Zoning and Codes office, 2108 W. 27th St., but Dabney fears some type III businesses will not. He said he has had seven to eight such business owners flatly tell him they will not comply.
"Some are taking the position that it is their right to do whatever they want on their land," Dabney said. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but zoning laws have been backed up by the Supreme Court. It is not like Douglas County is just doing this on its own."