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BREAKING NEWS - 2 OF 5 CITY PLANNING COMMISSIONERS FORCED TO RECUSE
Commissioners are required to step aside for Part 2 of the STR ordinance Study Session at May 2 meeting.
The next Twentynine Palms Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday May 2 is a continuation of the study session on the short term vacation rental (STR)ordinance. It has been confirmed by City Manager Frank Luckino that newly appointed Planning Commissioner Eileen Leslie and Planning Commission Chair Jim Krushat must recuse themselves from any STR ordinance discussions as both own STR permits in the City. According to Luckino, “The directions from last meeting will be readdressed,” referring to the April 18 STR study session.
After what some residents called a clear conflict of interest and consultation with the City’s legal team, the mandate that Commissioner Leslie and Chair Krushat recuse was made because “legal believes it is reasonably foreseeable that these decisions will have a material financial effect on each official’s residential real property interests” per the City Manager.
Quoting further from an email exchange with City Manager Luckino:
Regulation 18703(b)(1)(B) defines a “significant segment of the public” to include at least 25 percent of all residential real property within the official’s jurisdiction (if there is more than 25% affected by a decision then it is a general public exception). However, even if a decision could affect at least 25 percent of residential property within the jurisdiction, if the public official has a “unique effect” in the decision, the official would be conflicted. Regulation 18703(c) provides that a ”unique effect” occurs when the decision has a disproportionate effect.
So given the above, in general just like every council member owns a home and a business, the development code WILL affect them, the general public exception applies. Yucca Valley had an advice request out there to the FPPC on this very topic, which we used as precedent for the unique effect.
Reduction in the number of STR's per entity, Section 19.41.013
Allowing STR's connected by a carport, Section 19.41.020
Reduction in insurance requirement, Section 19.41.035
Good Neighbor class requirement, Section 19.41.060
Single Family Residence's (SFRs) built for Vacation Home Rental
Density per neighborhood
National Park buffer zone.
On top of the items requested by Council, City Staff had added additional items in the ordinance to be reviewed:
Number of STR's allowed per parcel.
Parking, Section 19.41.065
Conditions of Approval, Section 19.41.065 and 19.41.070
Response time for nuisance complaints, Section 19.41.070
Storage of recreational vehicles.
Issuance of additional permits such as Film, Temporary Use Permit, Home Occupation Permit, etc.
“I’m not going to recuse myself on this issue with regards to short term rentals,” stated Commissioner Leslie at the April 18th meeting. Leslie operates five STRs within the City- the maximum allowed amount under the current ordinance.
Piggybacking off of Leslie’s comment, Commission Chair Krushat, who possesses one STR permit, added, “I have no problem with Eileen commenting on this because we are just an advisory board— we don’t decide the law.”
Regarding recusal, Leslie added that she had ‘verified with the city attorney’ prior to accepting her position on the Planning Commission.
Chair Krushat read a public comment submitted by resident Deborah Shea on the issue which stated, “I also feel Planning Commissioners and City Council members should make it known whether they personally own a VHR within the City. Those individuals should recuse themselves from discussion and voting on that which they themselves receive financial gain. It’s not because I may agree or disagree with the member. It’s a conflict of interest and a matter of political ethics.”
We invite our readers to attend the May 2 meeting at 5pm in person or view it online.
Similarly to Council meetings, the public has multiple opportunities to comment at every Planning Commission meeting. Please use the opportunity to question your Planning Commission members on the issues affecting our City.
Public comments for all items are limited to three minutes per agenda item, but the public is entitled to fill out requests to speak on multiple items and may also speak during general public comments. To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the Clerk who is usually sitting on at the desk at the front of room on the right side.
Comments can also be emailed to members of the Planning Commission and the Community Development Director with a request they be read into the record.
NOTE: This article was updated shortly after release upon confirmation by City Manager Luckino that the April 18 STR Study Session will be revisited.
Disclosure: Desert Trumpet co-founder and editor Cindy Bernard is currently Chair of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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Standard terminology is STR or short-term rental. In its ordinance the City of Twentynine Palms instead uses the term VHR or vacation home rental. In practice the two terms and abbreviations are interchangeable.
While Council has final authority on ordinance changes, Planning Commissioners make final decisions on STR permit revocations and on permit issuance appeals.
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