Casino, housing resurface at council

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Casino, housing resurface at councilDuring the Wednesday night meeting of the Ridgecrest City Council, which began with a routine agenda of items for action and discussion, housing for low-income families and the advancement of the casino project both resurfaced for discussion.

City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen addressed the city’s Jan. 24 press release announcing that the city and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe had come to terms on the land sale and updated municipal services agreement (news-ridgecrest.com/news/ story.pl?id=0000011002), paving way for the development of an Indian gaming casino.

However, several citizens questioned the legality of the closed-session discussion that allowed the two parties to reach agreement. “The Brown Act does allow council to discuss matters in closed session,” said Pilchen. One of the eligible topics for private discussion is negotiations for items under litigation. “It’s understood that it is difficult to do in the public eye.”

The matter was not directly reported out, he said, because at the time both parties had not agreed to the terms.

Pilchen said that the agreement was approved by the council 3-2, with Mayor Peggy Breeden and Councilmembers Mike Mower and Scott Hayman voting for and Councilmembers Lindsey Stephens and Kyle Blades voting against.

The affordable housing project, approved at the Jan. 15 meeting, was back on the agenda for a “second reading,” protest hearing and approval.

Stephens, who left the previous meeting early after expressing disappointment in the closed session discussion (ostensibly the casino item), was not present at the initial consideration.

However, she expressed the opinion that promoting housing for low-income families was not moving Ridgecrest in the right direction. The projected was approved 4-1. See more on both topics in next week’s News Review.

Story First Published: 2020-02-07