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ON THE AGENDA: CITY COUNCIL FEBRUARY 28 MEETING
Mostly STRs and the TBID for the final day of February
After the 310-page tome the Twentynine Palms City Council had to digest for their last meeting, they are getting a reprieve with only 93 pages this meeting. It’s another early start though –– a 5:15 pm closed session on potential litigation. And if residents show up on STRs, could be another long night. Let’s get to it shall we?
There are multiple opportunities for public comment at every Council meeting. With the exception of “Grilling with the Mayor”, some members of Council rarely make themselves available to residents outside of Council meetings. Please use the opportunity of Council meetings to question your Council 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 City Clerk who is usually sitting on at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to Council members and the City Manager and cc the City Clerk requesting that comments be read at the meeting.
As is our usual, we’ll be pointing to agenda highlights but encourage Twentynine residents to read the full agenda.
#’s 3-6 The Consent Calendar consists of several items that can be approved with one vote. Generally they are routine items but the Council has the option to pull any item from the Consent Calendar for discussion. Despite the number of items, all public comment happens prior to the Council vote on the full list.
#4. Morongo Basin ARCH (Aligning Resources Challenging Homelessness).
The staff report recommends that Council approve a contribution of $25,000 to ARCH for the support of the homeless in Twentynine Palms. Council indicated their desire to add their support after ARCH President Astrid Johnson expressed a need for additional resources at the February 15 meeting.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
# 7. A Resolution for Finding and Determining the Public Interest and Necessity for APN 067-113-02.
A inexcusably opaque staff report requesting that Council authorize eminent domain proceedings on a .17 acre downtown parcel. The lot appears to be located near the intersection of Yucca Ave. and Cactus Dr. downtown: the 2nd lot north of Cactus facing Yucca. The stated purpose is an affordable senior housing complex and associated amenities consistent with the Downtown Specific Plan of the City. No details about the housing complex are provided.
#8. Vacation Home Rental Ordinance Review.
The revised Vacation Home Rental ordinance has been in place for eight months. Not only have a few holes cropped up in that time, but the majority on Council has shifted in favor of tighter regulation. During this first review, Council is asked to target which provisions need further attention, and we expect that members of the public will add to that list. This is one to watch for residents on both sides of the STR issue.
#9. Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID).
The TBID has proven to be an oddly controversial body. The TBID is funded by a 1.5% Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT), which sits on top of a 9% TOT for a total of 10.5% on room rates for overnight stays in hotels, STRs and RV spaces yielding an estimated budget for 2022-2023 of $285,000. In addition to general marketing, the TBID is responsible for the VISIT29.org website and the Twentynine Palms Visitor Center.
At the September 27, 2022 meeting several VHR owners joined hotel owner Veno Nathraj in arguing that the TBID lacked transparency and that their promotion was ineffective. Mike Usher, owner of GRND SQRL and President of the Downtown Business Association (DBA) added that the TBID’s reallocation of the budget for event production to revising their website was “shameful and disrespectful to the residents of 29 Palms.”
The upshot of these remarks appears to adding accountability by imposing terms of office, which were surprisingly missing, assigning a two-member Council subcommittee to oversee appointments and changing who can sit at the five seats. Instead of four hotel owners and one VHR manager, the staff is recommending representation from two “large” hotels (based on revenue), two VHRs and one “at-large” seat. Of course, that change can’t occur unless two of the sitting Board members step down.
Council is also being asked to assign end terms to the existing TBID members: Rakesh Mehta, Ash Maharaj, Heidi Grunt, Patricia Knight, and Maria Quinteros. Mehta and Maharaj have each served five years, Grunt has served four years, Knight has served three years and Quinteros two years. They will also need to determine who can be on the Board, the actual owner or a representative of the owner….and whether Board members should be residents of Twentynine Palms.
Disclosure: 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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