Malibu retail ordinance debate rages on

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Malibu Country Mart, a well-known high-end Malibu shopping location.

Malibu residents poured into a second town hall meeting this month to continue the discussion on a matter that will effect the future of retail in the area. The topic of heated debate was whether or not to enforce an ordinance that would protect local businesses from being pushed out by wealthier chain stores.

Developers, residents and city leaders are divided on the issue. Supporters believe the ordinance proposal is an efficient way to save long time mom-and-pop establishments from folding, while others see it as an an ordinance that smothers the right to free enterprise. Petitions are circulating locally to garner support for both sides of the coin.

In recent years, the landscape of Malibu’s retail scene has been changing, with bigger, wealthier names cropping up all around. Larger chain stores and illustrious designer brands haven’t had a problem paying the high rent imposed on retail stores in such a renowned location, but boutiques and independently-owned shops are quickly on the decline.

The Malibu Chamber of Commerce has gone on record opposing the idea of a retail ordinance, but is choosing to focus its energies on local small businesses, rather than the argument.

City planning department officials have previously devised a series of alternative measures to restore the balance of chain stores versus the independently-owned, which would eliminate the need to adopt a formal ordinance. These measures were proposed two years ago by Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, but were ultimately voted down.

The Malibu City Council plans to bring ZORACES, the Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee, which sets and enforces zoning laws, to its Aug. 8 meeting, where they will discuss the proposed formula retail ordinance.

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