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License fees for fortunetellers vary in valley

By Alex Bridges

Fortunetellers wanting to practice in the valley can expect to pay different fees depending on where they go.

Front Royal Town Council might consider making changes to the code that regulates fortunetelling, including the business license fee. The town currently charges an annual fee of $400. Town Attorney Doug Napier has suggested council reduce the fee to $300.

The town's flat, annual fee for fortunetelling is among the highest charged for a business license in Front Royal. The fee would remain one of the highest levies even if lowered.

The Fourth District U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that a fee of $1,000 served as a de facto ban on fortunetelling. The court opined that a fee of $300 would suffice, Napier has explained.

Warren County currently does not allow fortunetelling in any zoning districts, Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours said Friday. If local zoning allowed fortunetelling, the county could levy a fee of $10 to $50 depending on gross receipts of $4,000 up to $50,000. The county wouldn't charge a fee for receipts of less than $4,000. The county would classify fortunetelling as a personal or repair services and charge 27 cents per $100 of gross receipts of $50,000 or more.

Mount Jackson charges $1,000 annually for a fortunetelling license -- by far the highest levy to operate such a business. Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Friday that Mount Jackson hasn't seen an interest in such licenses.

"Obviously we don't have too many fortunetellers," Fauber said. "I'm not aware of any in town."

"I'm sure that this ordinance has probably been on the books for a long, long time as far as a license tax of $1,000," Fauber said. "I'm not sure how that was arrived at but that's how Mount Jackson's code is written. I'm not sure we've ever had a fortuneteller want to open up a business in Mount Jackson.

Fauber said he doesn't recall anyone seeking a fortuneteller's license during his long tenure as town manager for Strasburg.

As to Mount Jackson's current fee and the appellate court decision, Fauber said town officials would likely revisit the code section and look at what other localities charge should someone question the fee. The town would need to amend its code to make any changes to the fee, Fauber said.

Strasburg and Woodstock charge $500 annually for a fortunetelling license. Woodstock's code section applies the fee for fortunetellers, clairvoyants and practitioners of palmistry.

Woodstock Town Manager Reid Wodicka said he knows of no one seeking such a license. Town officials are revising Woodstock's code and had intended to look at the section that includes business regulations and license fees. Wodicka said he expects town staff to begin its work on the business license section this fall.

By contrast, New Market charges a license fee of $50 to practice fortunetelling, said Treasurer Teresa Green.

"I'm not aware of anybody ever inquiring about [a license]," Green said.

Some town and county officials say they are aware of the recent events taking place in Front Royal over the regulation of fortunetellers. But the demand for licenses remains almost non-existent in Shenandoah County.

"Front Royal's going through this so it may raise the awareness a little to look at our codes," Fauber said. "A lot of times towns are kind of reactive when things happen."

Shenandoah County does not issue business licenses, Commissioner of the Revenue Kathy Black said Friday. The county would assess a tax on the personal property in the business, such as desks, tables, cards or crystal balls, Black said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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