By Deb Murphy
Monday evening’s Bishop City Council meeting was standing room only, though it wnot really evident why.
The Council honored foster parents, discussed vaping and potential city ordinances, even the possibility of defining “city standards” and updated residents on the progress of environmental work on the Kingston subdivision. The audience faded away gradually throughout the two-hour meeting.
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter gave his swan song at what will be his final Council meeting before he retires. While Carter made no direct reference to the charges brought by seven officers in a letter of “no confidence,” he was the subject of a closed session, his performance evaluation, by council members prior to the public meeting. No action was reported; the Council reconvened in closed session at the close of its open session.
A new business, a vaping lounge scheduled to open in a few days, was brought to the Council’s attention two weeks ago and was the topic of a presentation made by Inyo County’s Health and Human Services’ April Egan.
Egan focused on the health issues of e-cigarettes, regulated as a tobacco product and restricted to those over 18 as well as whatever unrestricted substances can also be vaped.
“We don’t want minors,” said business co-owner Chastity Logan. “This is an adults only business. We’re not trying to start a war. We will do whatever we can to make it safe for the community.” Logan explained that while “anything in the lungs but oxygen isn’t good,” vaping is far safer than smoking cigarettes.
During a later agenda item on business license procedures, City Administrator Jim Tatum said the city “didn’t have the ability to disallow a license, I’m not saying we would have if we could…. The Logans developed a business plan that could go the way an ordinance would. They were under no obligation to do (the plan).”
City Attorney Ryan Jones and Mayor Pat Gardner will be attending a League of California Cities conference where regulation of vaping products and stores will be under discussion. Councilmember Joe Pecsi suggested the Council “wait and see what the League comes up with.”
Karen Kong, who opened the discussion at the Sept. 14 meeting with a letter from Inyo County Office of Education Superintendent Terry McAteer, followed up with another statement from McAteer, suggesting the city develop community standards, identifying what businesses were appropriate in Bishop city limits. Considering the variety of cultures in the city, that would be an interesting discussion.
Questions on the progress of new environmental documents on the 15-home Kingston Subdivision posed by Terrance Tye and Stan Wooden were answered in Planning Director Gary Schley’s report. Both Tye and Wooden, residents of Rome Street adjacent to the project at the 2.5 acre parcel currently occupied by Bishop Nursery, have come out strongly against the Draft Negative Declaration and the project.
According to Schley, the City has conducted a biological study on and adjacent to the site. It’s apparent, Schley said, that additional mitigation will be required and the draft report recirculated. The revamped report is scheduled to be available by Oct. 15, followed by a 30-day comment period with the Council taking up the question, again
BISHOP MAKING PROGRESS ON PARKING AND HOUSING ISSUES
The fenced-in, cracked concrete slab next to Holy Smoke BBQ on North Main Street in Bishop is one step closer to being an un-fenced, re-paved parking lot accommodating 70 spots for both passenger vehicles and RVs. But, wait there’s more.
The City continues to work with Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action on low-income housing, re-allocating the $1 million Community Development Block Grant from the Valley Apartment project to a 2.9-acre site at Spruce and MacIver in East Bishop. There are still pieces yet to fall into place. But IMACA’s Larry Emerson, who has been working on low-income housing for the community for five years, anticipates those pieces will be in place in the next few months.
City Administrator Jim Tatum updated the City Council on negotiations with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to add the lot on North Main to the City’s list of leased public parking sites. The current lessee is not renewing, Tatum said, opening the door for the City. “The greatest shortage is parking for RVs,” he said. “This will get people (in RVs) closer to Bishop’s retail center.” The lot will also take pressure off parking at City Park and Erick Schat’s Bakkery. According to Tatum, the lot is a potential site for electric vehicle recharging.
The 70-unit Silver Peaks project is a little more complicated. The original grant, which expires in September 2016, falls $500,000 short of the appraised value of the parcel that Tatum said LADWP is ready to sell. Emerson is working on sources for the additional funding.
“Over the next few months, we’ll be working with IMACA to make this happen,” Tatum said.
The CDBG funding was originally slated to tear down and rebuild the Valley Apartments, east of Perry Motors, but that project proved to be financially unfeasible, Tatum told the Council Monday. With a significant shortage of housing, relocation of Valley’s tenants during construction would have been nearly impossible.