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Ordinance Changes Should Streamline City Permitting Process

Alterations to general plan, including a ban on pot clubs, go into effect Nov. 23.

By next month, it will be easier to make small changes to hillside properties, get an alcohol use permit and remove a tree within the Novato city limits. And once and for all, you won't be able to open a pot club in town.

On Nov. 23, several ordinance amendments will go into effect thanks to action taken Tuesday by the Novato City Council. New amendments to the city's zoning code — drawn up after getting feedback from several organizations — are targeted to make it easier to operate a business in Novato, according to a city release. The zoning codes, which hadn't been changed since 2001 prior to the second reading of the new ordinance Tuesday, are the primary tool for implementing the city's general plan.

“We want Novato to be looked at as business-friendly and we continually look for ways to help business succeed and grow,” Mayor Denise Athas said in the release. “These changes will help add clarity to our process and help improve our customers’ bottom line.”

Highlights of the changes contained in the 110-page staff report include:

  • Eliminating the need for a use permit for dining establishments seeking to serve alcohol
  • Waiving the need for design review for minor modifications to existing and planned hillside developments such as small additions, façade and landscaping changes, and small accessory buildings
  • Modifying the tree removal permit process for commercial and multi-family properties — eliminating the need to obtain a permit for removal of trees less than 24 inches wide
  • Prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries 

The medical marijuana collective issue was a hot topic earlier this year when the city pressured owners and associatd landlords to close the Green Door and Green Tiger pot clubs on North Redwood Boulevard. At least two other medicinal pot shops have been opened and closed in Novato within the past few years despite a moratorium on them.

Community and business organizations such as the Marin Conservation League and the Novato Chamber of Commerce got to take a look at the ordinance changes prior to the vote so the city could incorporate feedback from the people and businesses most affected by the changes.

“Easing the regulatory burden on business is essential to Novato’s economic health,” said Coy Smith, CEO of the Novato Chamber of Commerce. “Our hope is that these changes will encourage new and expanding businesses to better serve our community.”

The Novato Planning Commission had two meetings on the topic in August and September.

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Lukas October 24, 2012 at 11:35 PM
•Eliminating the need for a use permit for dining establishments seeking to serve alcohol This is a slap in the face to The Blue Ribbon Committee. The Council will sell their souls for a buck.
Tina McMillan October 25, 2012 at 02:26 AM
It's interesting that they focused on this legislation but didn't mention taking money from MTC to fund road repairs through the One Bay Area Grant. This money comes with strings attached. Having written the city council I am still not clear that even though Novato has produced a housing element at a 20 unit per acre designation for multifamily units will we be forced to increase density along the freeway and roads that including funding through One Bay Area. As often as folks have asked for control to remain local are we selling our souls in order to have money to fix roads? If the council reads I hope they will respond.... Recommendation: 10. APPLICATION FOR ONE BAY AREA GRANT Consider adopting a resolution authorizing the Public Works Director to apply for and accept One Bay Area Grants (OBAG) to pave DeLong Avenue and Ignacio Boulevard in the vicinity of the US Highway 101 interchanges and construct a Class I pathway along the SMART right-of-way between Grant Avenue and Rush http://www.mtc.ca.gov/funding/onebayarea/
Dave Robertson October 25, 2012 at 07:22 PM
" - Waiving the need for design review for minor modifications to existing and planned hillside developments such as small additions, façade and landscaping changes, and small accessory buildings - Modifying the tree removal permit process for commercial and multi-family properties — eliminating the need to obtain a permit for removal of trees less than 24 inches wide" Basically they are saying that people can do almost anything to our woodland and hillsides as long as they will build in Novato. The City wants the money so badly that they are willing to "streamline" all the rules so they no longer apply! I am surprised the city council does not take official "payoffs".
Anthony October 25, 2012 at 09:39 PM
"Prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries." What does this solve? Making it harder for patients to require their medicine? If kids are going to get marijuana, they will get it through the many, many kids selling it that either grow it themselves or get it from their uncles.
Dave Robertson October 25, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Anthony, Yes, that is a serious issue. Why is it in Novato's best interests to deny patients close access to PHYSICIAN PRESCRIBED (and legally, also) medications that helps so many chronic pain and cancer patients? This is a step back into the dark ages - all because Novato thinks it will save them a few cents. Clearly the City Council is seriously defective in their backward thinking. They don't seem to care much about the sick and dying - probably because they generally don't (or can't) vote, and can't bring extra business to the city. This is seriously shameful in the 21st century!
Anthony October 26, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Dave: It upsets me that they try and ban cannabis shops, when it's very much legal for MANY residents here in Novato and Marin. A large number have their LEGAL medical marijuana. This will just lead to more drug dealers coming to town since there is nowhere else for patients to get their medicine. Why not get rid of pharmacies in Novato while we are at it. Wouldn't want to take one persons medicine and not take everyones...right.
Edwin Drake October 26, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Attn: Cannibis users - vote AGAINST the city council to get rid of these knuckleheads, (Except Pat Ecklund, who's a voice of reason in a room of idiocy.)

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