RP biz moratorium wins approval
Massage establishments removed from list of ‘negative’ businesses
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By Jud Snyder  July 26, 2013 12:00 am

Rohnert Park’s City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday, July 23, to approve a set of interim emergency ordinances dealing with businesses attracted by the presence of the Graton Tribal casino scheduled for a mid-November opening. (Councilwoman Gina Belforte was absent).

Mayor Pam Stafford emphasized the ordinance was temporary, lasting only 45 days, and it applied only to existing businesses and not to new businesses coming to the city to take advantage of casino traffic crowding Wilfred Avenue or elsewhere in the city. As it’s phrased, “Staff has drafted moratorium ordinances for these businesses and recommends that they be adopted to avoid having to process new applications for them while staff is considering zoning revisions.”

The businesses are termed to “have negative effect on public health, public safety and welfare impacts.” One of them, massage establishments, has been dropped from the moratorium list, probably because of a letter City Attorney Michele Kenyon received from Beverly May, director of government affairs with the California Massage Therapy Council, which said the moratorium “appears the language may be in conflict with California Business and Professional Code Section 4612(b)(4).”

However, taxicab companies or drivers, adult entertainment clubs, check-cashing services, pawn shops, cyber cafes and electronic messages such as flashing billboards all were included in the moratorium. The only public comments came from several who spoke up in defense of check-cashing centers, including Sofia Garcia and Jennifer Fisher, who told the council of the rules they have to follow to stay in business.

“We already have check-cashing offices in the city, so this moratorium might not be needed,” said Councilman Jake Mackenzie. But it was included. 

Marilyn Ponton, development services manager, reminded the council, “We’re asking the council to give us 45 days to study the elements needed. Then we’ll come back.”

City Hall has already done some research on the actual rate or impact of “unhealthy businesses” that are attracted to the proximity of a tribal casino. This is the Casino Mitigation Implementation Plan (CMIP) for 2013-14. Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins heads up this panel. He’s currently on vacation and missed Tuesday night’s meeting. He’ll return July 28, possibly with more information on the California casino’s ability to attract unwanted business ventures and what other cities have done about their proliferation.

All of the businesses mentioned were  described as “expected to increase with the influx of visitors, as vacationing casino patrons often seek other entertainment activities when traveling.”

The emergency ordinances expire close to Sept. 1. The city council has the option to extend them by either going heavily into rezoning to prohibit them in certain parts of the city (like Wilfred Avenue), or formally extending the ordinances for 22 months and 15 days as outlined by state law.

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