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Mar 22, 2013

U.D.P. Landy Burns questions trade license fee

The political free for all at the House in Belmopan is the big news tonight, but there’s another battle with political undertones being waged in Orange Walk Town. On one side of that northern rumble is the Town Council, which is managed by a P.U.P. administration. On the other side is U.D.P. political aspirant Orlando Burns. Burns is also the owner of a large business in town. But there’s a serious problem in the works, because in December, Burns was sent a bill for trade license fees, and to date he has refused to pay, since he claims that he is the victim of political victimization. Now that’s a claim you don’t expect to hear from a high-ranking U.D.P. politico, at least not right now, so News Five sent a team to the sugar city and freelance reporter Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Every business in Orange Walk has to have a valid trade license before it can operate. Trade license fees are assessed each year, and are payable to the Town Council. Mayor Kevin Bernard says that this year his Council ordered an across the Board review of fees to correct some inconsistencies they observed.

 

Kevin Bernard

Kevin Bernard, Mayor, Orange Walk

“Every year business owners have to apply for the renewal of their trade licenses. When we got in of course we saw that trade licenses were already paid prior to us getting in last year. And what we saw was that there were a lot of inconsistencies and we believed that unfair assessments and we decided to action an entire reassessment of all the businesses in Orange Walk.”

 

There is a formula in place for the assessment of trade license fees, which are calculated based on the square footage and rental value of the business. The Town Council is authorized to charge up to twenty-five percent of the rental value. Landy’s and Sons was charged three thousand dollars in trade license fees in 2011 and 2012, and after the assessment that increased to four thousand.

 

Kevin Bernard

“It is based on the square footage of your building of course and it is a yearly annual rental value. So twenty-five percent by law should be applied to the annual rental value and if you would take Landy’s and Sons Hardware that is located at that location and the adjoining business that he has in front, it is a very huge square footage that he occupies. And if we were to apply the twenty-five percent to him, he would have been paying even far more than what was assessed.”

 

The actual square footage of Landy’s and Sons, says Bernard, is twelve thousand eight hundred feet, with a rental value of two dollars and twenty three cents per square foot monthly. If the Council had actually charge twenty-five percent, Burns would have been paying almost eighty-thousand in fees, instead of the four thousand he is being charged, which he has not paid to date. Instead, Burns has retained the services of a lawyer.

 

Kevin Bernard

“I find it very; sometimes I want to laugh when I read the letter where he is claiming that he is being victimized. I use other example Mike; businesses that had a smaller space were paying far more than him. It is not to say that we do not like to see people expand on their trade, but you have to pay the right fee.”

 

That lawyer is asking is an amicable solution can be found, but the Council intends to get its money, which they contend is more than fair. So what happens next?

 

Kevin Bernard

“The first step, we will reply to the letter definitely, to his lawyer representing him and also to Mister Burns. The Trade License Board has made a decision as well; that he has to come in and pay that. And it is by law that he says that if you have any dispute, before you even take that matter to the board, you must pay your fees. So him coming with a letter from a lawyer isn’t solving anything really. He must pay his fees and then if we believe that he disagrees with any decision the board made, then he can take if to the Evaluations Appeals Board who is going to hear his case and thereafter. We are not going to, and I want to make it clear; that it is not because of the owner, Landy Burns, but it is the principle behind the action. And we are ensuring that we are following the law. One, we will write him reminding him that he has an outstanding payment due to the council for his trade. And if he refuses, we will have to take the next step which is to put out a stop order on his business.”

 

And to cement his point that this has nothing to do with victimizing Burns as a political figure, Bernard had two examples to offer. Shell One Stop currently pays four thousand dollars a year. So does this Santiago Castillo warehouse. Both are considerably smaller than Landy’s and Sons. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

News Five spoke to owner of Landy’s and Sons Orlando Burns today. He declined to give an on-camera interview, but told us that he has no problem paying any amount as long as he gets an explanation for why his trade license fees increased, and as long as he can be shown that trade license fees for other businesses have increased as well. Currently, he is in arrears, since payment was due on January fifteenth.

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No Responses for “U.D.P. Landy Burns questions trade license fee”

  1. Storm says:

    This dispute is one example of what is wrong throughout Belize, that government officials just don’t follow the law uniformly and fairly for everyone.

    If the law really says he owes $80,000, then charge him that amount — and charge every other business what they really owe under the law. When you deviate from applying the formula, then it is all about party and bribes and family connections. That is not “the rule of law.”

    If the law leads to bad results and has to be ignored, then repeal or change the law. But apply the law the same to everybody, so it means something!

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