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.