ON THE AGENDA: CITY COUNCIL, NOVEMBER 14, 2023
STRs get their final review at Council and a full agenda greets Larry Bowden for his first meeting as Interim City Manager
As always, you have an opportunity to comment on agenda items and issues important to you at every City Council meeting. Please use the opportunity to question your Commission and Committee members. We encourage our readers to view the entire agenda on the city website. On Tuesday, the day of the meeting, a link will also be available to view the live stream.
Attend this meeting if:
you have general comments you want to make about the state of the City
you have an interest in the code governing short-term rentals
you wish to comment on any other matters on the agenda
The invocation is scheduled to be given by Karalee Hargrove, who appears not to have a religious affiliation. Citizens interested in giving the invocation for a Council meeting can contact City Clerk Cindy Villescas at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
CONSENT CALENDAR Items in the Consent Calendar can be approved with one motion unless an item is removed by a request from the public or a Council member so that it can be discussed further prior to a motion. The public is given a chance to make public comment on these items prior to the Council motion. Please pick up and fill out a green (or occasionally gold) comment slip and hand it to the city staff at the table located in front of the Council bench.
Approval of the City Council minutes from October 24.
Approval of warrant register for a total of $1,114,623.91.
Split Rock Avenue Bridge Design Contract Amendments. These amendments cover costs that will be paid to Dokken Engineering associated with restarting this project. It was put on hold in 2022 after changes were requested by CalTrans.
Pubic Utilities - Wastewater Services - Second Reading. City Council discussed wastewater services in its October 24 meeting (reported here). This is the sewer line and septic system located downtown that serves fewer than 20 businesses.
The proposed regulations include establishment of when a connection to public sewer is required, when an on-site treatment system would be permitted, wastewater discharge regulations, sewer connection approval and design, and construction of sewers and sewer laterals.
The City is also proposing the development of a larger system downtown that refers to the “attached map,” although no map is attached.
Award a Construction Services Contract to Courtmaster Sports, Inc. for repair and resurfacing of the Luckie Park basketball courts.
Fire Department Emergency Response Report
DCA23-000002 - Nonconforming Buildings and Uses. On September 19, Planning staff held a hearing on nonconforming buildings and uses, reported here.
The Planning staff suggested changes to Development Code Chapter 19.142, which provides guidance on existing structures that do not conform to the planning code.
If one of these structures is damaged or destroyed, can it be rebuilt or does it have to change so it conforms to current code? Do changes have to be made to a legally established lot that doesn’t meet the standards of the land use district? The code element limits nonconforming uses and regulates whether they can be enlarged, occupied after they have been abandoned, or altered or restored if they have been damaged or destroyed.
The City’s planners maintain that the proposed changes clarify rather than significantly change current regulations.
DCA23-000007 - Vacation Home Rentals (also called Short-Term Rentals or STRs)
At the Feb 28 Council meeting, Council gave direction to Planning Commission to review several items on the current Ordinance. Planning discussed these items at their October 10th meeting and made few changes despite a great deal of public comment about:
density of STRs in some neighborhoods
newly built single-family residences immediately applying for STR permits after final inspection—that is, purpose-built STRs
frustration that staff for local business have difficulty finding housing and a request for a moratorium on STRs close to the City’s business area so that employees can locate places to live
Planning choose to ignore Council recommendations on these items:
Number of permits per entity: Council recommended reducing the number of permits per entity to 2-3 with a grandfather clause; Planning voted to keep them at 5.
Density: Council recommended density limits based on adjacency and / or percentage and directed the Planning Commission to define
areas for percentage limitations; Planning’s position has evolved from “impossible to implement” to “difficult to implement” but so far has not proposed a solution as directed
Purpose built STRs: Council recommended limits on permitting new construction as STRs; Planning ignored this recommendation.
Why isn’t Planning as responsive to public concerns as Council? Planning Commissioners are effectively appointed for life. Even though they have to reapply for their positions every four years, Council always reappoints them. On the other hand, Council members have to stand for election every four years, meaning they have a greater obligation to listen to the public.
Additionally, the initial discussion in the review cycle on STRs took place on April 18th with two Commissioners who were STR owners participating. They were forced to recuse prior to the May 2 meeting, when the second half of the regulations were considered. However, the decisions made prior to the recusals received a cursory review at best, and continued to stand at the public hearings that took place in October.
DCA23-000012 - Western Joshua Trees. At the Planning Committee meeting on September 19 (reported here), the commission suggested regulations for the removal, relocation or trimming of a Joshua Tree, which would basically be to defer to State regulations. They suggest that the city need not handle any permits pertaining to Joshua Trees, an option provided by the State.
DCA23-000015 - Downtown Specific (DTSP) Land Use Tables. In its September 19 meeting, the Planning Commission endorsed City staff’s recommendations of clarifications, consolidations, and updates to allowable land uses table in Article 2 in the City’s development code. The City’s planning staff proposes to implement the same list of allowable uses for zones in the Downtown Specific Plan. The Commission voted 4-0 to accept these recommendations.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
City Clerk Compensation - Following the City Clerk’s evaluation during the closed session at the last CC meeting, it was suggested that the clerk receive a 5% increase in compensation. During that time the Frank Luckino resigned and additional duties were given to the clerk to assist as Larry Bowdon takes over as the interim city manager. We hope the the City Clerk is being fairly compensated for the extra work they have had to take on.
Public Arts Advisory Appointment. Paul Razo, an artist and business owner in Twentynine Palms, has been nominated to be on the Public Arts Advisory Committee.
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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