Planning Commission discusses fee for businesses

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

The monthly meeting of the Carter County Planning Commission adhered to a short agenda approving designs for subdivisions, but the real meat of the meeting occurred during a listed item named "other."
   Commissioners discussed the possibility of enforcing a fee on businesses connected with rivers and streams in Carter County. Numerous rafting guide services migrate from along the North Carolina border into numerous water bodies in the county.
   Chairman Bob Hughes initiated the discussion, citing additional revenue the county could receive if these businesses are charged a fee similar to a business license.
   He said some guides charge $150 to escort two people into the river for a day of rafting and fishing without having to pay a fee from the National Forestry Service or the county.
   Planning Director Chris Schuettler said he knows of 13 outfitters that profit from this type of business in Carter County waters but don't have to pay a business license fee because the geographical location of their business is outside the county's boundaries.
   Commissioner John D. Snyder said he didn't think imposing a fee was a legal option for the county. "I don't believe you have the right to charge when you don't own the river ... I don't believe it is legal," he said.
   Commissioner Jerry Pearman suggested organizing a subcommittee to study the legality of such a fee and other counties that have implemented one, such as Unicoi County, which charges businesses a fee to access the Nolichucky River.
   County Mayor Dale Fair acknowledged that Unicoi County passed a resolution requiring river businesses pay a guides license fee. He agreed to bring a copy of the resolution to the next Planning Commission meeting and to work with the subcommittee on researching the subject.
   The subcommittee will consist of former Commissioner R. L. Miller, Commissioner Bill Armstrong, Commissioner Lynn Tipton, and Fair.
   In other business, Codes Enforcement Officer Craig Malone presented his monthly report and suggested a workshop and meeting with the Health and Welfare Committee to discuss the next step of legal action against some residents who refuse to comply with the litter law.
   The committee will review three cases before sending them to County Attorney George Dugger who will pursue legal action in General Sessions Court.