Council approves budget, zoning adjustments

Residents and stakeholders continue casino debate during public comment

Council approves budget, zoning adjustmentsBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council met Wednesday evening for one of its shorter meetings. The council rapidly approved the second reading of a zoning ordinance change that would allow for construction of new apartments on South Norma Street and approved the rollover of some $5.8 million in unspent funds from the fiscal 2018 budget.

Council waived a second full reading of the rezoning ordinance and unanimously approved two parcels on South Norma Street, just north of the Bowman Road drainage ditch, to be rezoned from medium-density residential and commercial to high-density residential. The new classification allows for as many as 29 dwelling units per acre.

The proposed Red Rock Villas project would construct 198 new apartment units over the course of three phases to meet anticipated housing needs, in part caused by expected hiring at China Lake. The ordinance change was approved unanimously.

Council also approved nearly $6 million in capital projects, fleet maintenance, roadwork and other expenditures for the fiscal year 2019 budget – all of which are expenditures rolled over from last year’s budget.

Mayor Peggy Breeden clarified that these were funds allocated for the 2017-18 budget that were never actually spent and that there is no negative fiscal impact to the current budget. For a detailed list of budget adjustments, see the meeting agenda at ridgecrest-ca.gov/council-agendas.

Breeden also briefly discussed the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting which took place Thursday, 11 a.m., at City Hall. Details were not available at press time, but Breeden said she was seeking no direction, since there were no voting items on the agenda.

Councilmember Lindsey Stephens said she noticed a potential litigation item in the closed-session portion of the meeting.

“Can we get an update on potential litigation?” she asked. “It would be good for us to be aware of that.”

City Manager Ron Strand, acting manager for the GA, said the council wouldn’t be able to discuss closed-session matters during the open-session portion of its meeting, a response that raised the question of if and when members of council would be briefed on closed-session matters.

“I would like to have an answer for that,” said Breeden. “How the other entities report to their boards, I do not know.”

“If we don’t have insurance yet and the city is on the board, it seems like we could be liable,” added Stephens.

City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen said he would get back to the council with more information after the GA meeting.

With such a brief agenda, members of the public once again took advantage of the public comment part of the meeting to air their concerns about, and hopes for, the proposed Timbisha-Shoshone casino.

The opposition continued to direct council and the public to data supporting the economic and social dangers of casinos, specifically in small towns, that has been gathered at at noridgecrestcasino.com.

Residents also gave personal testimonies on how casinos have negatively impacted their families.

Supporters of the casino announced a new economic impact analysis from the Louisiana-based Innovation Group that suggests a casino in Ridgecrest would be an economic net gain, assuming that all proposed phases of the project would be completed. The report is available at a casino support Facebook page — facebook.com/letridgecrestgrow.

See future editions for more details.

Story First Published: 2018-10-19