Public Health & Safety Main Focus of Compliance Effort
(BRANSON, MO., 9/08/2023) The City of Branson is launching a new ‘Lodging Safety Initiative’ designed to ensure all lodging establishments operating within city limits are complying with required public health and safety standards. As a premier destination for millions of visitors annually, Branson offers a wide range of lodging establishments including motels and hotels, condominiums, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and other types of lodging establishments. Through the implementation of the Lodging Safety Initiative, the City of Branson is emphasizing a focused commitment to ensure consistency and accountability in the protection of public health and safety for visiting guests and other occupants of lodging establishments located within city limits.
This initiative is the result of a comprehensive review of the City’s adopted codes, along with input from various business and non-profit stakeholders. It is intended to provide clear direction to City departments on the priority of public health and safety code compliance. The initiative implements a framework of enforcing existing codes and authority of the City in encouraging compliance with local ordinances regarding building structures, property maintenance, and fire code requirements that protect public health and safety. When appropriate, this initiative will address severe offenders operating establishments under non-compliant conditions with significant public health and/or life safety violations.
The vast majority of lodging establishments operating within city limits routinely meet the regulatory inspections and requirements necessary to be issued a City business license, and to be further inspected, and ultimately upon approval, to be granted a lodging establishment permit issued by the Taney County Health Department and a lodging license issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. However, the City has recently identified several lodging establishments operating outside of the permitting/licensing process.
“Our top priority is to ensure the protection of public health, life, and safety for our guests and residents in Branson,” said Mayor Larry Milton. “This initiative is a positive step in reinforcing the credibility and legitimacy of our city’s business licensing and lodging program by creating an equal regulatory playing field for lodging establishments who actively choose to follow the law and provide healthy and safe accommodations. We are taking this critical step through this initiative to set the level of expectations in our City, especially in lodging establishments housing vulnerable populations in extended stay type living situations,” said Mayor Larry Milton.
The City of Branson code, fire and licensing inspection programs have been actively engaged in contacting all lodging establishments regarding required inspections for the 2024 lodging season, which begins November 1st. In coordination with city business licensing, code enforcement, fire inspection, and building inspection staff, the City has developed an action plan premised on a customer-service and compliance assistance process.
“Our goal is to help businesses achieve code compliance in the most business-friendly way possible.
However, protecting life and safety is our first-and-foremost mission as local government,” said City Administrator Cathy Stepp. “While the issue of lodging compliance is not new to our community, our strategic, safety-focused initiative gives us more coordination, more collaboration and the utilization of the necessary tools to address those establishments operating outside the confines of the law,” said Administrator Stepp.
Under current code provisions, the City can issue citations and, following administrative steps, can ultimately terminate city water supply to business establishments that have consistently disregarded or attempted to circumvent the city licensing and inspection requirements necessary to lawfully operate as a business (BMC Sec.
22-41 (F)). The licensing process is a regulatory system to ensure minimal protections are in place.
“The Branson Area Lodging Association is proud to endorse the City of Branson’s Lodging Safety Initiative. Our members have always strived to ensure the safety and comfort of visitors to our region. This enhanced enforcement of code, fire, and health compliance is necessary to take bad operators out of our industry and our community,” said Laurie Hayes, Executive Director, Branson Area Lodging Association.
“We appreciate that the health and safety of residents are a priority in this process and we are here to connect those who need assistance with agencies that can assist,” said Lisa Marshall, Director of Taney County Health Department. “We are thankful to have a network of agencies to help support our community during times of need,” added Director Lisa Marshall.
“The Branson Fire Department is supporting this city initiative to champion an end goal of safety and fire prevention for guests staying in area lodging facilities. This initiative is a positive step for our community in ensuring we have the tools to ensure fire code compliance and fulfill our department’s mission of putting life, health and safety first,” said Branson Fire Chief, Ted Martin.
“Our officers have been continually frustrated by a small group of lodging establishment owners who take advantage of our most at-risk community members that are often forced to live in unsafe conditions. Our officers and employees will enthusiastically support this city initiative with the goal of ensuring safe and healthy living conditions for all who choose to visit and reside in Branson,” said Branson Police Chief, Eric Schmitt.
The City of Branson regulates businesses and lodging establishments under the applicable sections of Branson Municipal Code Chapter 18 (Building and Building Regulations), Chapter 22 (Businesses), Chapter 42 (Fire Prevention and Protection) and Chapter 58 (Offenses and Nuisances – specifically, Section 58-294). All lodging establishments and businesses located within city limits are subject to applicable municipal code outlining the processes and authority granted for business licensing, inspections, fees, and enforcement.
The City of Branson licensing and inspection programs routinely coordinate with the Taney County Health Department, which is also responsible for inspecting all lodging facilities in Taney County. Pursuant to city code, no person shall operate a business within the city without first having obtained a valid business license or permit (BMC Sec. 22-22). Subsequently, no license or permit shall be issued to any applicant to be found in violation of any lawfully imposed building, health, safety, or zoning code and/or ordinance (BMC Sec. 22- 29). Under current code, the City’s revocation of a business license may also force closure of the business as a lodging establishment (BMC Sec. 22-43(a).
The City’s Code Enforcement Division is responsible for enforcing the city's ordinances to ensure that all structures and uses comply with the applicable standards and permit requirements adopted by the Board of Alderman. These standards are intended to maintain public health, safety, and welfare. In 2018, the City of Branson adopted the International Property Maintenance Code (2018 edition) published by the International Code Council, Inc. For additional details, local building and property maintenance code requirements can be found in Chapter 18 of the Branson Municipal Code. The City of Branson Fire Department’s code inspections are based on the ICC International Fire Code (IFC), 2018 Edition. The City has previously adopted the ICC Building, Electrical, and Mechanical Codes, plus the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. For more details, local fire code amendments can be found in Chapter 42 of the Branson Municipal Code.
Pursuant to Branson Municipal Code Sec. 22-1, a lodging establishment is defined as: “Any building, group of buildings, structure, facility, place, or places of business where five or more guestrooms are provided, which is owned, maintained or operated by any person, and which is kept, used, maintained, advertised or held out to the public for hire which can be construed to be a hotel, motel, apartment hotel, resort, cabin, tourist home, bunkhouse, dormitory, or other similar place by whatever name called, and includes all such accommodations operated for hire as lodging establishments for either transient guests, nontransient guests, or for both transient and nontransient guests.”
For more information, please visit the City’s website: www.bransonmo.gov/lodgingsafetyinitiative