|FPPC investigating Cotati planner Lisa Moore
Moore facing conflict of interest charge; Cotati planners to vote on changes to fast-food ban
The enforcement division of the Fair Political Practices Commission has launched a conflict of interest investigation against Cotati Planning Commissioner Lisa Moore.
The conflict of interest complaint was filed with the FPPC against Moore because she did not remove herself from discussions at a Feb. 19 Cotati Planning Commission meeting about possible changes to the city's limits on formula-based businesses, especially formula-based fast food restaurants (FBFFR). The person who filed the charge believes her decision to participate in the discussions is a blatant conflict of interest.
Moore, a former city councilwoman and mayor, is a waitress at Tubby's Restaurant near Oliver's Market on East Cotati Avenue. Tubby's, along with locally owned restaurants such as the Redwood Café, the Galley at the Cotati Yacht Club and Marvin's, likely would be most affected should changes to city policy come about.
The City of Cotati has a cap of eight formula businesses and only three more formula businesses, all along Highway 116, are permitted. There is also a 60-foot buffer zone between formula businesses and a provision where no formula business can open more than one location in Cotati. The commissioners voiced their opinions but opted not to vote on the proposal to loosen these provisions. Instead, the commission requested city staff, which originated the proposal, do more studies and provide more details. A yes vote by the planning commission would have sent the matter to the city council for final approval.
Officials at the FPPC were contacted by The Community Voice but refused comment while the investigation is under way. The FPPC said there was no timetable on this investigation.
The planning commission has scheduled a meeting on Monday, July 15, where it will vote on the proposed changes. The city has applied for amendments to the ban.
The regulations have been in place for more than five years. The city believes, according to the planning commission staff report, through communication with commercial property owners, leasing agents and commercial developers, the regulations have been identified as a deterrent to leasing existing commercial space and development of vacant lands. Cotati, the report stated, has been approached on multiple occasions from businesses that fall under the FBFFR regulations but are unable to meet the criteria for approval.
The proposed amendments include modification of cap requirements and equitable distribution, which means increasing the allocation numbers and categorizing formula based fast food franchises based on service and market approach. In the past, restaurants were generally categorized as either fast food or sit down. But new service models – quick service and fast casual – have evolved within the industry to blend the characteristics of the two.
The quick service category is a fast-food type restaurant that offers quick food service with minimal table service or patron amenities at a lower price. The fast casual restaurant is the type that offers a hybrid of quick service and casual dining that typically provides counter service and offers more customized and freshly prepared dishes than the traditional quick-serve restaurant.
Another proposed amendment is to eliminate limitations on multiple same franchises within the city. This would allow establishments such as Subway or Starbucks to expand into other areas of the city.
The final proposed amendment is the elimination of the 60-foot distance requirement between FBFFRs.