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La Verne Businesses Fight Proposal to Raise License Fees


Some La Verne businessmen have organized to fight a proposed 75% increase in business license fees by the city to finance creation of a citywide business improvement district.

The proposal, intended to attract new businesses and expand the city's economic base, is likely to be voted on by the City Council on Monday.

Dick Thompson, owner of La Verne Glass & Screen, distributed 800 preprinted postcards to La Verne business owners and encouraged them to send the cards to the City Council to protest the proposed fee increase. There are 778 business license holders that would be affected.

The city had received more than 200 letters or postcards protesting the increase by last Thursday, said Harrison Sanborn, who works in the business license office.

Mayor Jon Blickenstaff said the opposition shown in recent days is "definitely sufficient to ring some bells" at Monday's council meeting. He declined, however, to speculate on what the reaction of the council might be.

But Chamber of Commerce President Carla Sullivan said that the mass mailing misled business owners and that it was "not a very good representation of the program that has been proposed."

The business license fee increase would be based on gross sales and would exclude resident businesses and shops in the Downtown Business Improvement District, which already pay an increased fee. The proposal would levy fees on insurance agents, financial institutions and other non-retail businesses.

Money raised by the fee increase would be used to promote local businesses. This, city officials hope, will increase revenues from sales taxes and broaden the city's economic base by attracting new businesses.

The proposal is similar to ones already in place in Baldwin Park, Ontario and West Covina, where, according to figures supplied by the La Verne Chamber of Commerce, the programs have dramatically increased sales tax revenues.

Thompson, however, feels that the city of La Verne has no right to force him to promote his business.

"Any promoting of my business will be totally voluntary," Thompson said.

"(A) 75% (increase) is very substantial, but the dollar figure is not," Thompson said. "It's not the money involved at all, it's the principle."

The City Council held a hearing on the issue Oct. 16, but later council members said they had not received enough input from business owners. The council then sent letters to all La Verne business license holders, asking for input.

"You don't ask those questions unless you're going to pay attention to the answers," Blickenstaff said.

Councilman Craig Walters said, "We had been told in comments that most of the people were in support of the plan, and that there was not much opposition."

The median fee increase would be about $36, according to the Chamber of Commerce, which proposed the plan last year.

One of the businesses that may not benefit from the new improvement district is the Load Center, which sells specialized heavy forklift equipment for construction.

"It can't do me any good," said Carl Attman, owner of the Load Center. "I don't need any more business here in La Verne.

"Most of the businesses are going going to pay $36 more, and there is going to be a few of us that are going to pay $1,000 more, and the guy that pays $36 is going to get all the benefit," he said. Attman said his business grosses $10 million a year.

Part of the money raised would go toward creating a high-profile image for La Verne, Sullivan said. She pointed out that Claremont has the Claremont Colleges, and Ontario has an international airport to help define themselves.

"La Verne is just a real nice city, and it's real hard to attract businesses," Sullivan said.

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