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Piano bar owner refunded part of permit fee

POSTED July 30, 2010 10:42 p.m.
In a compromise, the Turlock City Council on Tuesday agreed to refund $1,415 to Vintage Lounge owner Dan Gray, or half of the amount charged when he amended the piano bar’s hours of operation earlier this year.

When originally approved, the Vintage Lounge’s operating hours were from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight. In January, the closing hour was revised to 1:30 a.m. through a Conditional Use Permit amendment and council review, costing Gray $2,830.

Gray contacted the city after that hearing, arguing that when he was issued his original permit, staff was directed to amend his hours of operation after a trial period proving his business did not increase crime rates. According to Turlock city staff, while there was discussion of a possible trial period during council discussion of the original permit, no special exception was granted from the CUP amendment process.

Council members Mary Jackson and Amy Bublak supported returning Gray’s full application fee, believing the subtext of the original permit hearing pointed toward a no-cost reassessment of the Vintage Lounge’s operating hours.

“I thought the spirit of this was, if you do this (don’t raise crime rates) we’d give you the extended hours within some period of time,” Bublak said.

 Council members Kurt Spycher and Ted Howze opposed returning any percentage of the fee, siding with staff’s interpretation and fearing some precedent may be set if fees were returned.

“As you looked at everything in writing again, I think we left Mr. Gray the ability to come back to us in the future, but we never said we’d comp it to the city,” Spycher said. “… My concern is that we’ll start seeing these on a regular basis.”

Mayor John Lazar recused himself from the item due to the appearance of a conflict of interest, as he represented the building’s owner through his real estate business.

After a split, 2-2 vote on returning the fee, Bublak proposed a compromise where half of the fees would be returned. Howze changed sides with the compromise proposal, making an exception for Gray’s unique situation.

“Otherwise, I think the fees are what the fees are,” Howze said.

City still looking for PSF funding options

The City of Turlock Public Safety Facility may have stalled out over lack of funding, but city staff is hard at work developing a plan to make the facility a reality.

“It’s baby steps,” City Engineer Mike Pitcock said. “We are making progress.”

The $35 million, 57,570 sq. ft. development was approved by council to house the city’s police and fire departments near the corner of N. Broadway and W. Olive, before a state take of $3.37 million in Turlock Redevelopment funds jeopardized the city’s ability to finance the structure. The City of Turlock already purchased nearly all of the required land before putting the brakes on in May.

Pitcock recently met with architects to nail down the actual costs of moving forward again. Once those numbers are finalized, Pitcock will prepare several funding strategies, including data regarding a public private partnership.

 A report on funding the PSF is expected within the next month.

The Turlock City Council also:
Formally accepted community donations to support the summer recreational swim program, totaling $14,525. The council appropriated those funds – combined with $71,550 generated by discontinuing healthcare benefits for elected officials – to pay for recreational swim program costs from July 1 to Aug. 6 at the Turlock and Pitman high school pools.

Accepted the donation of a hybrid wind-solar streetlight to be installed at Rotary International Park from DirectNu Energy of San Jose. The light will help meet a city staff-identified need for additional security lighting at the park. While the light is free, the City must collect the streetlight from San Jose and install it, but the costs are expect to be lower than those of purchasing a light, running conduit, and paying a monthly electrical bill. The City of Turlock currently faces $590,000 in ongoing costs from maintaining and powering streetlights.

Received a staff update on the Annual Street Line Striping Project.
Accepted $50,322 in federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, which will be used to support police services directed to support special events and address crime trends.

Issued proclamations recognizing National Night Out 2010, set for Aug. 3, Parks and Recreation Month, and the retirement of Charles Barnett, a Senior Fleet Maintenance Mechanic.

Established liens on 13 properties for weed, obnoxious growth, debris, and abandoned vehicle abatement costs.  The liens total approximately $2,360.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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