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Gold Hill grapples with coffee-stand rules

GOLD HILL - Coffee stands are contributing to elevated blood pressures for city officials, but not because of the caffeine in the brew.

Now that the popular stands have finally reached this small town, planning officials are faced - just as other cities have been - with establishing specific guidelines to follow when approached by someone wanting to set one up.

Outdated ordinances and the lack of its own building department became issues for the city last month when the owner of the city's first stand, The Daily Dose, was issued a stop-work order by a county code enforcement officer because she didn't obtain a building permit. Later, she was cited for not adhering to the stop-work order.

Robin Ellis, owner of the Second Avenue stand, appeared before the City Council after learning she could be forced to pay up to $600 in fines and close the stand because she hadn't met requirements she argued weren't clearly defined when she obtained her city business license.

The council spent nearly four hours debating how its regulations apply to Ellis.

"It was kind of a headache," said councilman Rob Lowe. "We want to attract new businesses to Gold Hill, but when a situation degrades like this one did, it causes a lot of well intentioned people to waste a lot of time."

City business licenses don't spell out what requirements business owners must follow, but several exist.

Ellis needed state approval for the stand's location on a state highway and the city's approval of a site plan. Then she had to get either state approval of her stand as a prefabricated building or a county building permit. Finally, electrical inspections and a "set-up" permit were required.

Instead, Ellis just started building after she got the city license. She didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

County building official Robert Gilmore said the county will not pursue citations if Ellis meets requirements within an extension period granted by the county. Her case comes up for review again in about two weeks.

"The steps are sometimes very confusing and we don't want to cite anybody," Gilmore said. "We just want to help them get in compliance."

Planning Commission Chairwoman Linda Annecston said portable stands are uncharted territory for Gold Hill and noted that cities without their own building departments must rely on county services.

Jackson County handles code enforcement and building inspections for unincorporated Jackson County, Shady Cove, Gold Hill and Butte Falls.

Annecston said the Planning Commission, already in the process of rewriting outdated ordinances, will research the best ordinance for portable stands and will meet with the county March 19 to learn more about the relationship between the city and county.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in city hall and is open to the public.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at.