RP extends unwanted business moratorium
Council’s decision makes it almost impossible for one of the banned enterprises to open in city
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By Jud Snyder  August 30, 2013 12:00 am

Back in July of this year, Rohnert Park’s City Council gave itself 45 days to see if a moratorium on certain businesses aiming to build in the city would be  feasible to block with a law against them because of their “unhealthy nature” and being a “peril to the community.”

The 45 days are up. Tuesday night, all five council members voted to extend the moratorium for as long as 22 months and 15 days. (The vote actually needed a four-fifths approval to pass). This is the maximum, and it’s doubtful the council will need almost two years to settle the issue. City Attorney Michelle Kenyon told the council some parts of the moratorium language are almost ready for council scrutiny.

The new rules restricting or banning too many taxicabs, adult entertainment ventures, massage parlors, pawn shops, check cashing services, cyber cafes and electronic billboards are based on research done in other California cities where tribal casinos have been established. But the moratorium applies to the entire city, not just along Wilfred Avenue close to the Graton casino.

The council also took pains to emphasize  the new law doesn’t mean they don’t like massage centers, pawn shops or cyber cafes where gambling’s allowed, but they just don’t want to see them spread throughout the city. 

“We’ve never had a casino right next to our borders,” said vice-Mayor Joe Callinan. “We’re not totally against them, but we’re trying to get a grasp on what we must do to protect the city.”

The extra time beyond the first 45 days will give Rohnert Park Dept. of Public Safety researchers more time to see how other cities have handled similar situations RP will soon be experiencing.  RP officers visited the Roseville area near Sacramento about a year ago to see what effect the casino in Lincoln had on the community. But this survey mainly covered the traffic impact on nearby neighborhoods. The city has received written reports from two small cities in southern California with tribal casinos nearby.

The RP moratorium is designed to make it very difficult,  if not impossible, to get a use permit to build one of the banned enterprises anywhere in the city. There has been some concern about it, for it does project a negative business attitude on the part of the city. But the mere fact that the casino itself will be huge,  with 3,000 slot machines due to arrive before the November opening, this impact will be minimal. 

Part of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) the Graton Tribe has with the city and Sonoma County is a Dept. of Public Safety sub-station will be built west of the freeway near the casino. It will have both police and firefighting services in its building.

Most of the attention concerning the casino has been on mitigating potential traffic problems in the Wilfred Avenue, Redwood Drive and Golf Course Drive area. It tends to overshadow the moratorium’s impact. 

Then there’s Station Casinos of Las Vegas, partners in the casino with Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR). They have plans to build a resort hotel nearby with spa and swimming pool. Included in the mix is the five-story proposed Oxford Suites hotel to be built near Home Depot.

All these proposals, including traffic mitigation and a business moratorium, have made for an extra-busy city council agenda every other Tuesday, plus sub-council committee meetings in between.

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