Council agrees to look at franchise concerns
A majority of Nevada City Council members agreed late Wednesday to consider a new ordinance to regulate formulaic businesses in the historic downtown, but a franchise beach-themed deli will go forward.
The council agreed to put the issue on an agenda for further discussions at a future meeting. It directed staff to provide information about franchise-related ordinances in other cities. No firm consensus was reached whether to go ahead with the ordinance, however.
A crowd packed the City Council chambers to hear a local business owner protest the opening of a Beach Hut Deli at 100 Union Street. The heated issue didn’t come up until close to 10 p.m., capping a sometime raucous four-hour meeting.
“I have a problem with a franchise deli coming to the historic district,” said Eric Engstrom, owner of Dos Banditos, who is leading the opposition and presented a petition signed by 150 business owners. Engstrom also complained about being misled that the deli was a franchise, not “Smitty’s Deli.”
Others who spoke also complained about being misled and raised concerns that the deli would open the “floodgates” to more franchises.
Others objected to the beach theme. “If you’re seeing pink and green signs, it’s not very Nevada City-like,” said former planning commission member Laurie Oberholtzer.
The owners of the deli, longtime area residents, said they did not intend to mislead people. “Smitty’s Deli” was a fictitious business name assigned to the business.
“The Beach Hut deli is a great option for a lot of reasons,” said Gary Tintle, one of the building’s owners. Tintle said government should have no role in regulating what kind of business can open or not in downtown.
The owner of the Beach Hut Deli franchise called the food “gourmet,” not fast food.
The discussion became heated and a police officer got up from his seat and walked toward Engstrom’s lawyer, who was among the most vocal at the meeting. He tapped him on the shoulder and reminded him not to interrupt the proceedings.
At some points, Mayor Barbara Coffman banged her gavel.
The council made it clear that no ordinance existed to regulate franchises in the downtown. But it was “common law” that the historic district wasn’t a place for franchises, said Councilman David McKay.
Others pointed out that Coldwell-Banker and ERA are real estate franchises.
“We’ve got to work something out here,” McKay said.
The Beach Hut Deli was supported by Vice Mayor Reinette Senum, because its owners control a large majority of the business decision-making: if the food is bought from local suppliers, for example.
“This one slipped through the cracks, and we’re going to have to deal with that,” Senum said. “But we can set up some ordinances so this doesn’t happen again.”
Councilwoman Sally Harris also supported an ordinance directed at what she called “formulaic” businesses. “I would support that we direct staff to what would be reasonable” to regulate them.
Other council members disagreed. “I don’t feel it’s the job of city council to micromanage businesses,” said Coffman.
The City Council agreed to hold a workshop on Sept. 8, earlier than planned, to revise its second-unit housing ordinance. This could help the city meet requirements for providing its legal share of low-income housing.
The council endorsed legalizing existing second-dwelling units by year-end. Units could be made legal based on an amnesty program to pay any required fees.
“This is low-hanging fruit” to help meet the requirement, said Senum.
The date was set a week earlier because of the year-end deadline. The workshop is open to the public, and the revised ordinance would require a public hearing.
Some residents spoke out about low-income housing at the meeting, expressing concern that the goals meet the city’s mission statement: “preserving and enhancing small-town character.”
“We are losing the character of our neighborhood,” said Erin Minett, who lives near a proposed mini-storage project at 13270 Gracie Road. Roy Arashi is the applicant.
The county planning commission today will consider the mini-storage project. Minett has collected 250 signatures opposing the project.
The Nevada City Council also set a meeting for Oct. 1 to discuss the broader zoning issues related to meeting the goals for low-income housing.
In other action, the council:
– Unanimously agreed to grant pay raises to the police chief, the director of finance, the city engineer, the planning manager, the director of public works and the fire chief for July 1 through June 30, 2010. The raises are 2.5 percent for the first year, 3 percent for 2009-2010 and 3 percent for 2011.
The increases also call for paying all of the worker’s contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS. The city manager, director of finance and
director of public works agreed to forgo pay increases for a year.
– Approved a five-year deal for West Sacramento-based Classic Coach Carriage Service to resume horse-drawn carriage rides in the historic downtown, starting on weekends in a “couple of weeks,” its owner said.
– Agreed to close Broad Street and North Pine for a Classic Car Show on Sept. 6 between 5:30 and 10 p.m.
-Approved a 25th anniversary celebration for South Yuba River Citizens League at Pioneer Park on Sept. 20.
-Agreed to consider a a resolution provided by APPLE to address “energy scarcity.”
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