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.

Post Your Comments:
Tiahna Skye
July 17, 2013
As a practicing Massage Therapist for the past 35 years and the campus manager of a local massage school, National Holistic Institute, I am deeply disappointed to see "massage centers" listed as a negative business in your headline and article. To state that massage may be a threat to public health and safety is an ill informed opinion. Illicit businesses in the adult entertainment industry may be a threat, but the truth about legitimate massage therapy businesses is that they provide a great service to our community.

There are negative influences in many industries. We have all heard about MDs who have abused the privilege to prescribe drugs. We call them what they are, criminals, but we do not condemn the entire medical field. We know of police officers who get involved with corruption in various forms, yet we are all still happy to know that the majority of them are here to serve and protect us. We certainly do not try to ban them from our communities.

Massage Therapy provides many benefits to those who receive it. Everything from reduced stress to relief from pain to an increased sense of well being and heightened immune function. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States as the general public becomes more aware of the value and more and more people seek out treatment.

Massage Therapists are highly educated, skilled practitioners of a legitimate health service. California requires a minimum of 500 hours of education for certification. That training includes in depth study and practice of hands on skills combined with anatomy, physiology, pathology, ethics and business.

Please stop lumping us in with prostitutes and other illegal businesses. It is offensive. The fact is we are highly trained professionals who have dedicated our careers to the efforts of helping others. We do not compromise the communities in which we work, we enrich them.

Greg Karraker
July 16, 2013
I'm still laughing that RP considers cabs to be a "negative" business. Maybe they think the only suitable transportation for inebriates leaving the casino is an ambulance or a police cruiser.
Allison Budlong
July 16, 2013
I'm disapointed to read the words "massage centers" as synonymous with "adult entertainment" and "prostitution". While there are those who use Massage therapy as a front for the illicit services they offer, that should in no way preclude professionally trained Bodyworkers from offering the well studied and documented health benefits of Massage Therapy. It is unfortunate that this article, and from the sound of it the city of Rohnert Park, would support an ordinance that is so dismissive of the thousands of legitimate Massage Therapists in the state of California that earn a viable income with this widely accepted health service. Kaiser, Sutter Hospital and many other large medical corporations cover Massage Therapy. We live in one of the largest destination spa Counties in the nation. We need to find an alternative way to curb illegal and dangerous activities that do not in turn tarnish the image of the Massage Therapy Industry and penalize those who (like chiropractors, physical therapists and medical doctors) are helping others live healthier lives.
John Myerson
July 13, 2013
I just started a taxicab company and I grew up in Rohnert Park. I have intended to apply for my License there I have been driving for three years for another company and saved the money for my own. I feel I should have every right to drive in Rohnert Park as anyone else and truth be told the dominate taxi cab company is one of the worst that is already licensed there.
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