Costa Mesa council to consider medical marijuana fees and an official July Fourth event

Medical marijuana businesses would have to pay at least $49,000 in fees to set up shop in Costa Mesa, according to a proposal up for City Council review.

Council members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on setting the fees for businesses looking to open locally under the voter-approved Measure X.

That measure allows businesses that research, test, process and manufacture some medical marijuana products to open in the area north of South Coast Drive, west of Harbor Boulevard, south of MacArthur Boulevard and east of the Santa Ana River, though not in South Coast Collection.

Such businesses would have to obtain both a medical marijuana business permit and a conditional use permit to open.

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Under the plan up for the council’s review Tuesday, the business permit would cost $21,525 while a conditional use permit — which also requires approval from the city Planning Commission — would set operators back $27,508.

On top of that would be annual business license fees and the cost of background checks required for owners and employees, which is pegged at several hundred dollars apiece.

During an April 5 meeting regarding Measure X, Assistant City Manager Rick Francis said the city has determined the proposed fees would be necessary to cover costs related to permitting the businesses and enforcing local regulations.

“This is going to be done on a cost-recovery basis,” he said. “The fees represent our best effort to recoup what the city’s going to spend in extra time and all the other extra effort that we have to undertake to make this thing happen.”

Medical marijuana businesses in Costa Mesa also will have to pay a 6% annual gross receipt tax.

Cultivation and retail sales of marijuana or marijuana products are still prohibited under Measure X.

It will probably take at least five months for medical marijuana businesses to go through the city’s permitting and approval processes, according to Francis.

Fourth of July and fireworks

In other business, council members will discuss creating a central, city-sponsored Fourth of July celebration featuring musical performances, food, drinks and a pyrotechnic display.

Councilman John Stephens developed the idea in consultation with residents, city staff and local public safety leaders in response to complaints and concerns over the use of illegal fireworks in the city.

“Costa Mesa is out of control in terms of the illegal activities that are happening on or around the Fourth of July,” he said.

Stephens said the idea is to create a safe, centralized event at the OC Fair & Event Center.

In his mind, doing so will help promote public safety because those who attend the event will be less likely to engage in illegal activity. Law enforcement would also be able to more effectively patrol the community “without the extensive ‘cover’ created by block parties” spread throughout the city, according to the agenda’s staff report.

Stephens wants the event to take place in partnership with the Heroes Hall veterans museum at the fairgrounds. The vision would be to have people visit the museum earlier in the day, then stay to enjoy performances and concessions.

The event would culminate in the evening with a pyrotechnics display that would make use of devices offering the same visual spectacle as fireworks, but without the noise or concussive booms.

Stephens is requesting his council colleagues sign off on the event and approve spending up to $50,000 to stage it.

On Friday, he said local businesses have already pledged $21,000 to help cover the costs of the event, “and it hasn’t even been approved yet.”

“A city like Costa Mesa deserves to have a good, community event on a very important holiday for our country,” Stephens said, “but, more importantly, I would not have done this if I didn’t think it was going to keep people safe.”

At this time, the council is not considering changing the city’s existing policies regarding the use and sale of “safe and sane” fireworks — those that don't leave the ground or explode in the air and bear a seal of approval from the California fire marshal.

Those devices can be purchased locally and set off in Costa Mesa between 4 and 10 p.m. July 2, 3 and 4.

Representatives of the 36 youth sports and community service groups permitted to set up fireworks stands in town say selling the devices is vital for fundraising.

As part of their discussion, council members will consider launching a “proactive campaign to inform citizens that the city will be vigorously enforcing its prohibition against the discharge of illegal fireworks and seeking the maximum penalty for such violations,” according to the agenda.

Discharging illegal fireworks is a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or six months in jail.

Tuesday’s City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

luke.money@latimes.com

Twitter @LukeMMoney

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