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Permitting law challenged by small businesses

Entrepreneurs in Virginia are watching developments in Spotsylvania County as new permitting policies have small business owners concerned about their ability to survive. The new policies would severely limit wedding venue small businesses operated on private property by restricting them to hosting just six events each year.

County officials defended the new policy as necessary to control the noise and traffic associated with events held by these types of businesses. Unlike a private-property owner who might have one or two parties a year, wedding venues are operated as businesses and could account for multiple events each month. Small business owners point to the tax revenues wedding venues generate that would be lost if the county insists upon compliance with its new rules.

At least one local attorney expressed concerns about violations of the rights of private-property owners under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Concerns have also been raised that the new permitting rules violate the rights of property owners by restricting their use of their land without a legitimate public health, welfare and safety issue to justify it. The argument against permitting limitations is that other, less restrictive, methods exist to control noise, traffic and other issues pertaining to events held at the wedding venues.

A court challenge to the county's permit limits appears to be inevitable once other wedding venues in the area become aware of the effect it will have on their businesses. It is claimed that the law was enacted without adequate notice to local businesses. One wedding venue owner took issue with the unfair application of the law that limits his business to six weddings each year while placing no restrictions on the number of weddings hosted by another local business.

Source: FOX News, "Va. county restricts private business from hosting weddings", Kenric Ward, April 29, 2014