Glendale businesses: Tax change could cost an extra $50 a year

Glendale businesses may soon be required to pay for an annual certificate as part of the city’s move to streamline its permitting process.

After a yearlong effort to increase efficiency for businesses and homeowners who deal with the city, the City Council on Tuesday took one of the final steps to change a variety of city codes.

The proposed change that generated the most discussion among council members was the replacement of the city’s current zoning-use certificate — a one time, $198 document that all businesses must have before they can open in the city.

In its place would be a business registration certificate, which costs $198, but businesses would also have to pay an annual $50 renewal, which would be done automatically unless there is a change in the business use, according to Community Development Director Hassan Haghani.

Most council members voiced support for the proposed change, but Councilman Ara Najarian said he strongly opposed the new business registration certificate.

“People are saying ‘No, it’s not a tax, it’s a business certificate,’ it’s basically a tax to do business,” he said. “If there are problems, let [enforcement] be complaint-driven.”

City officials said Glendale does not have a business tax and the new certificate is considered a fee because it only covers the administrative cost of issuing it. The point of the certificate and renewal is to better track what types of businesses are within the city so officials can design more effective economic programs.

Tracking that kind of information is important, said Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

Before the city sent out an intern to inventory all the businesses in the San Fernando Road corridor several years ago, officials did not know it could be a hot spot for creative businesses, Friedman said.

However, after taking a census of businesses in that area, officials launched the so-called Creative Corridor program in 2010 to offer assistance to media and design firms that wanted to move there.

“We need to know what is in our town, where we’re at,” said Councilman Zareh Sinanyan.

But Judee Kendall, president and chief executive of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern about the proposed certificate.

“It unfairly burdens businesses that are in compliance with city requirements in order that the city [can] search for businesses that are not compliant,” she said.

Other representatives from the business community, however, such as Melinda Clark of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce, Alissa Asmarian from the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce and Johnny Harrison of Lexus of Glendale came out to voice support for all of the proposed change.

Harrison said that as long as there is transparency in how the annual fee is collected and where the money goes, he supported the new registration certificate.

“We’re in favor of it as long as that accountability is there,” he said. “Because we do need to know who’s doing business in Glendale.”

Another change included in the ordinances would allow certain types of conditional-use permits to be issued administratively, instead of holding a public hearing.

One such use is allowing alcohol to be served at a restaurant.

The ordinances would also eliminate the city’s Environmental and Planning Board, which hasn’t met since 2006, and restructure the approval process for hillside home projects and design review thresholds for homes and condominiums.

The ordinances will come back next month for a second reading and possible final adoption. If approved, they will come back for a review by the council 15 months after going into effect.

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Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.

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