FOCUS DeKalb wants more business-friendly ordinance


Focus DeKalb attorney Mike Coghlan speaks about how he thinks a portion of the original material within the Commercial/Industrial Building Responsibility Code Ordinance is unconstitutional and discusses proposed amendments during a meeting Wednesday at 1719 Sycamore Road.

By Margaret Maka

A DeKalb business group discussed amending a proposed business inspection ordinance Wednesday at a meeting.

Members of FOCUS DeKalb, a group of local business and commercial property owners that formed after the city proposed the Commercial/Industrial Building Responsibility Code Ordinance, addressed citizens’ and business owners’ concerns in regard to the ordinance and explained their plans to make the ordinance more business-friendly. The measures proposed by the city include annual inspections at a cost to business owners and registration for all buildings.

“A business-friendly community has incentives for people who want to come here and live here,” said FOCUS DeKalb member Mike Carpenter. “Everything about this community is shrinking and people are exiting.”

FOCUS DeKalb attorney Mike Coghlan said there are discrepancies between DeKalb’s proposed ordinance and health and safety inspection case law.

Amendments to the city ordinance put forth by FOCUS DeKalb include measures such as a mandatory 3/4 vote for any “business-hostile” measures taken, less restrictions on public record disclosures, publicizing and providing information following inspections and new restrictions regarding privacy in the home for home-based businesses under the Fourth Amendment.

“The FOCUS ordinance adds things that city staff did not have in there which are specific protections for industry,” Coghlan said. “And it’s not so much the protections, it’s the acknowledgement that the federal case law and the United States constitution are involved in a city ordinance. They cannot be ignored.”

There was no public hearing when the original bill was proposed Sept. 8. Although it didn’t pass, there has been backlash from business owners, said FOCUS DeKalb member Will Heinisch.

In response to the backlash, the city has proposed a new timeline for the bill and is planning for a public hearing on Jan. 12. FOCUS DeKalb urged forum participants to attend a City Council meeting Nov. 10 as the proposed inspection ordinance will be an agenda item.