City Council extends temporary ban on formula businesses

FORT BRAGG — The Fort Bragg City Council met for the second time this month. Again, the meeting was open to the public via Zoom and also in-person at Town Hall, in a hybrid format.

The meeting began with Mayor Bernie Norvell recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month, celebrating the accomplishments of LGBTQ people across the nation.

Public comments were then taken. In-person, Michelle Goodman spoke on behalf of Waste Management, to remind residents that trash collection would be delayed on the Friday and Monday surrounding Memorial Day weekend. On Zoom, Annemarie Weibel spoke to the council about the Albion Bridge Stewards’ recent appeal to the Planning Commission.

During staff comments, City Manager Tabatha Miller gave her bimonthly report. Miller said the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department will test its mass notification system on May 26, in preparation for wildfire season. Miller also said the franchise agreement for solid waste will come before City Council sometime later next month. Additionally, contracts have been signed for a public fireworks display on July 3 along the NOyo Headlands.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to at least one celebration that’s normal,” Miller said.

Miller also updated the council on the water emergency — the city is continuing to trend at or below the 1977 record-low flows of the Noyo River.

Director of Public Works, John Smith, said the current water statistics are down 43 percent from 2020. The city is working on a reverse osmosis system and obtaining a desalination machine, and is seeking reimbursement from the California Office of Emergency Services, also known as Cal OES.

Vice Mayor Jessica Morsell-Haye spoke about the development of a “blue economy,” which is a “sustainable development approach to coastal resources,” she said. A recent meeting of city services heard presentations, including from officials at the San Diego Harbor.

A meeting is tentatively set for Oct. 8 to further the discussion, Morsell-Haye said.

She also gave an update on the Fort Bragg Name Change Citizens’ Commission. The commission has met twice this month and Marsell-Haye said it hopes to increase the number of meetings. A tentative schedule for bringing recommendations to council it set for sometime in October or November. Additionally, she said, a community questionnaire will be distributed to those living in the 95437 zip code at some point in the near future.

The council passed the consent calendar unanimously, though the mayor pulled one item for a small language change; that item also passed unanimously.

Public hearing on formula business moratorium

The council then held a public hearing on extending the current 45-day moratorium on the approval of applications and permits for formula businesses in the city’s Inland Zoning Areas. The extension would be for a more permanent, though still technically temporary, 10-month-and-15-day period.

The City Council previously discussed regulating formula businesses twice, once in 2019 and 2020, but the item was put on hold due to COVID-19. It resurfaced last month on April 12, making the council’s meeting Tuesday the 42nd day.

If the city voted to extend the ban, any permit going through the process will be suspended until it is lifted. However, as pointed out by Councilor Lindy Peters, that moratorium can be lifted at any time. There is currently a permit application going through the city’s permitting process from the Dollar General Corporation.

Public comment on the item was 2-1 in favor of extending the ban. Councilors, however, were split.

Despite the angry comment from a member of the Dollar General team, who said they had been told there would be no such changes when they submitted their application, Morsell-Haye said the item was already under consideration when Dollar General came to the city with its application. Councilor Peters agreed, calling it not a ban on formula businesses, but rather “a blueprint.”

Mayor Norvell said he was not in support of extending it, though he said he felt the subject was important, he did not approve of how the city was “going about it.”

“As far as being ‘business-friendly,’ being really clear on our direction to the Planning Commission, on our direction to applicants, that is what’s going to be business-friendly,” Vice Mayor Morsell-Haye said. “The goal of the ordinance is to really clarify our intentions. We’ve seen applications who have made big investments and not been approved at the end, and that, to me, is worse. Putting it on hold for now — before they make further investment, so we can be really clear with the applicant — is in good faith.”

The vote then fell along those lines, with Peters making the motion, Morsell-Haye seconding, Albin-Smith and Rafanan voting aye, and Norvell voting against. The ordinance will come back before the council on June 28 for formal adoption.

In other business, the council continued a discussion on its budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022 and purchasing liability coverage through the Employment Risk Management Authority. The council then went into a closed session to discuss with labor negotiators on behalf of the Fort Bragg Police Association, and real estate negotiators for the purchase of property at 90 W. Redwood Ave.

The next Fort Bragg City Council meeting will be held in a hybrid format at 6 p.m., June 14, at Town Hall and on Zoom. For more information, visit the city’s website at city.fortbragg.com.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to at least one celebration that’s normal,” Miller said.

Source: https://www.advocate-news.com/2021/05/24/city-council-extends-temporary-ban-on-formula-businesses/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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