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Wednesday, May 11 2011 02:53 PM

Citizen questions $1,561 Walmart appeal fee

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Public speaker Shannon Turner questions the fee the city requires for an appeal in the Walmart process.

"Community Development Director David James addresses the council regarding amendments to the sign ordinance.

Tehachapi City Council held its regular meeting on Jan. 18 at the BeeKay Theater. The meeting was delayed from Monday until Tuesday due to Martin Luther King holiday. Council members Susan Wiggins, Linda Vernon, Shane Reed and Mayor Pro-Tem Phil Smith were present at the meeting. Mayor Ed Grimes was absent. 

During the audience communications, local resident Shannon Turner expressed her concerns about Walmart to the council. 

“Living on Sierra Vista Drive just outside of the city limits, my neighbors and I are very affected by your development decisions,” she said. “I, for one, fear that approval for a Walmart Supercenter, which will be visible from my house, will further erode our quality of life. Given how the approval process for the Walmart has been conducted, with very little public discussion of the impacts of the proposed Walmart project, many I know are outraged that the planning commission, not the city council, will decide on a project that can have devastating consequences for the community.  

 “According to the Jan. 12 Tehachapi News,” Turner said, “the only recourse citizens will have to the planning commission's decision is an appeal to the city council, which I have confirmed with the planning department is an appeal fee of $1,561. 

“How is that city government, supported as it is by general taxes, should require such a steep fee before it will respond to a citizen’s concerns? 

“I protest that this fee of $1,561 is unreasonable and excessive. I come here tonight to request that the city lower its appeal fee so that it is comparable to the county’s, which I understand is about $420.

“If the City Council cannot take action on reducing the fee before the next Planning Commission meeting on the Walmart project then I request that the City Council waive the fee for any appeals of the planning commission's decision. 

“A board of non- elected commissioners should not have the final say on such a momentous issue.”  

The council could not respond to the issue, as it was a non agenda item. 

City Manager Greg Garrett said the Planning Commission has scheduled an additional meeting on the Walmart project for 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at Tehachapi High School gymnasium.

Water and signs

In other business, the council approved, 4-0, resolutions directing staff to pursue funding for the water treatment plant upgrade and improvements and to execute the bidding process for this project.
Community Development Director David James presented the revised sign ordinance to the council. The council approved the ordinance, 4-0.

Capital Projects Manager Chris Kirk presented a resolution asking the council to approve the city manager’s submission of a proposal to the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District for a grant for a new vehicle under the 2011 Motor Vehicle Emission Reduction Program. 

This grant would be for $26,000, with the city providing an additional $6500 in funding. The new vehicle, a Ford Escape Hybrid, will replace a 1997 Ford Ranger pickup. 

The council approved the resolution 3-0  with Susan Wiggins recusing herself as her employer. The Lung Association, has also submitted a request for this grant. 

The council, as requested by Kirk, also approved a notice of completion for the Mill and H Street rehabilitation project.

The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at the BeeKay Theater.

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