Mike Whaling, owner of Airport Mini-Storage in Mount Hope, Ontario, Canada, is tired of other local small-business owners who do not pay their fair share in property taxes, licensing fees or zoning fees. While Whaling said he pays nearly $30,000 a year in property taxes, he maintains other businesses never go through the process of getting licensed and go undetected by the city.
A few years ago, a competing self-storage facility was twice taken to court by Mount Hope for operating without proper zoning, but Whaling said the business was back operational the following day each time it was fined.
“It was a joke,” Whaling said. “The fine was … a slap on the wrist. “The word on the street is that in Hamilton, as long as you operate under the radar, maybe move out to the (rural) areas, you’ll get away with running a business out of your home. The city hasn’t even figured out how much income it has lost.”
Whaling said he spent nearly $100,000 in associated fees getting his self-storage business operational. The owner of a restaurant chain operating two unlicensed locations in nearby Hamilton recently said the company did not file for a license partially due to having to pay high rezoning fees.
“These entrepreneurs prior to buying a property have to know everything there is to know what it is they can do with that property. It’s up to them,” Whaling said. “Otherwise it’s not fair to the guy who is running his business properly, doing his due diligence and paying his taxes.”
Officials in Mount Hope and Hamilton have reallocated internal resources to try to curb the problem and crack down on illegal businesses, including unlicensed places of lodging, massage parlors and other commercial enterprises.
There are 8,000 licensed businesses in Hamilton, but officials said there is no way to know how many additional organizations may be running without a license or in an improperly zoned area.