RP to limit ‘negative’ businesses
Council places moratorium on taxicab applications, massage centers and check-cashing establishments
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By Jud Snyder  July 12, 2013 12:00 am

Rohnert Park’s City Council took action Tuesday night this week to approve establishing a 45-day moratorium on taxicab applications and the setting up of businesses in the city that “may have negative public health, safety and welfare impacts.” The proposed moratorium comes under the umbrella of RP’s Casino Mitigation Implementation Plan for 2013-14.

The proposal was prepared by Alexandra Barnhill, assistant city attorney, and was presented to the council by Marilyn Ponton, development services manager. The negative businesses include pawnshops, cyber cafes, adult entertainment businesses such as massage establishments, freeway message centers (billboards) and check-cashing establishments.

Presumably, the moratorium includes the north side of Wilfred Avenue, although the street wasn’t mentioned in Barnhill’s report. The south side of Wilfred Avenue abuts the Graton Rancheria territory. Perhaps the Graton tribe leaders will cooperate since they are supplying funds for the costs of mitigation of the casino concerning Wilfred Avenue.

The 45-day moratorium falls short of the casino’s opening date, mentioned as Nov. 1, 2013. 

The city council didn’t vote on Barnhill’s report but listed it as an Interim Urgency Ordinance. The actual vote on it will be taken at the council’s next meeting on July 23.

Ponton told the council, “Staff has already received inquiries related to a number of these businesses.” Sgt. Aaron Johnson of the Dept. of Public Safety told the council Tuesday night, “The city has already experienced a significant spike in taxicab applications. As opening day of the casino draws near, staff anticipates requests by taxicab operators and drivers will continue this dramatic rise.

“The operation of taxicabs can potentially jeopardize the public safety risk from poor driving skills, criminal activity, improperly maintained vehicles and/or unclean vehicles.”

Said Councilwoman Gina Belforte, “It’s better to do this moratorium now than wait until the casino opens.”

Ponton expanded on the proposed moratorium ordinance by saying to the council, “Pawn shops may offer a market for stolen merchandise, cyber cafes offer a risk of illegal gambling, massage centers and adult entertainment businesses pose a risk of prostitution, freeway message centers (billboards) pose a risk to the traveling public and check-cashing establishments may engage in predatory financial practices to their typically low-income, financially vulnerable customers.”

If the council votes four out of five to approve the moratorium at its July 23 meeting, the ordinance takes effect. It could also be extended up to an additional 22 months and 15 days if necessary, following another hearing and city council action.

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