Roundtable votes to oppose business license proposal and sends it on to council

Saying that a licensing fee would be yet another burden on local businesses, the Business Roundtable last week voted down a licensing requirement that its own subcommittee proposed for most commercial operations in Malibu. But the City Council must still review the proposal, and it may be more inclined to support such a program.

City officials are mainly interested in a business license program, because if all businesses are registered with the city, officials would have an easier time verifying whether home-based businesses are complying with zoning laws. Currently, officials only learn of a zoning violation when a neighbor complains about a home-based business.

The proposed annual fees – $50 for storefront businesses and $25 for home-based businesses – would only cover the costs of operating the licensing program, and would not generate any additional revenue for the city. Under state law, the city can not impose a new tax unless such a tax is approved by voters in a citywide election.

But even the nominal fees proposed met with the opposition of roundtable members.

Chair Mark Ball said after businesses endured a series of natural disasters, a new fee would be too much of a burden. “The business community is suffering from the last year-and-a-half,” he said.

Realtor Kathryn Yarnell said she suspected the proposed fees would increase over time. She told member Bob Hart, who helped draft the proposal, “I’ll bet you dinner at Geoffrey’s the fee will go up to $150.”

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Mary Lou Blackwood, director of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, conveyed the chamber’s board of directors’ opposition to the new fees and their feeling that the city already does not do enough for local businesses.

City Manager Harry Peacock said he was not surprised that businesses would oppose new fees. “That’s not untypical,” he said. But he disputed the assertion that the city is unfriendly toward business. He reminded roundtable members that the city provides them with a conference room at City Hall, and a staff member, at 7:30 a.m., to serve as a liaison with the City Council.

“The City Council endorsed your group,” he said. “They provided you with a place to meet.”

Peacock said that the council may decide not to accept the roundtable’s recommendation against adopting the proposed business license program.

“For one-and-a-half years, this issue has been going on,” he said. “If the City Council had wanted to kill it, they would have killed it.”

He recommended that the roundtable indicate to the council what would be an acceptable business license program, but the roundtable ignored his advice and voted to oppose the proposal before them. Peacock said the council will probably consider the proposal at its Nov. 23 meeting.

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