By Jack Barnwell

Thursday’s Community Development Committee (CDC), moved forward with an approval to bring a new consultant contract before a full council meeting and an update on the city’s effort to streamline portions of the city municipal code dealing with development.

Council member Steve Morgan, a CDC member, was not present.

Economic Development Director Gary Parsons presented a contract that would continue services with consultant Kosmont Companies.

Kosmont was originally retained to come up with a detailed retail report and strategy for Ridgecrest’s economic and retail development.

If approved by the council, Kosmont would receive up to $150,000, to be billed based on what they accomplished per month, going from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2013.

The contract details three scopes of service Kosmont would apply, including implementation of their retail sector action plan, coordinating an economic development forum that would allow local trade businesses and stakeholders to hear from real estate professionals on various relevant subjects. The third scope is as-needed economic development services not included in the first two tasks.

Parsons said that it was a TAB-funded project that would come from the $2 million the council had allocated for economic development.

Money would not come from general funds. The only challenge would be since it is a monthly billing cycle, the funds would have been forwarded from other accounts until TAB money became available sometime next year.

“The major benefit of Kosmont is what I call their black book,” Parsons said. “The organization is very well placed and has just unbelievable amount of access to retailers and developers.”

Parsons also said there was a job creation benefits as well, including an EB5 process.

EB5 is a federal program that fast tracks the green card process for any foreigner that sinks $500,000 investment in local areas. Parsons said that Kosmont is large player in that area, but that some restrictions applied to the program.

Stan Rajtora, present as a member of the public, asked what would happen if the TAB funding did not come through. “If the TAB funds don’t come through, a lot of things would have to be revisited.”

Committee chair Jason Patin said the council was aware of that possible scenario.

“The main thing is to be prepared,” Patin said. “We need to have plans ready to go ahead when the plans become available and if we don’t we still need plans.”

A motion was approved for staff to move forward to put it on the Sept. 19 city council meeting, with a 3-0 vote.

Streamlining Process

The committee also approved a motion for staff to present language at the city council meeting to direct the city attorney’s office to identify a direction they were moving on in regards to reviewing portions of the city’s municipal code.

The areas under review pertain to the development process and which ones fall under state mandate and which ones the city can modify. The goal is to make that portion more business-friendly.

Alexander presented the item, saying that city staff had not as of yet received a general direction the city attorney’s office is moving in or an estimated date of the information.

Parts of the code complicate a lot of things that should be simple and straightforward, Alexander said, especially when it comes to provisions that the city engineer’s office must work with.

Parsons said that the city engineer was simply trying to work within the code’s guidelines.

The tricky part is determining what is state mandate and what is city-driven. As a general law city, Ridgecrest must comply with certain state mandates that charter cities have more flexibility with.

“We’ve had a problem because the code is somewhat antiquated and doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of today,” Parsons said.

Randy Jenkins, a member of the public and a mayoral candidate, asked if there were certain portions that could be set aside or exceptions be made on a case-by-case basis.

Patin said although he had agreed with the idea and had broached the subject on council before, there was no support for it and it was a “dangerous thing to do.”

“It makes sense, but you have to understand once you let one person do it, you’re going to have let everyone do it,” Patin said. “I think you would be opening up a huge can of worms if you did things case-by-case.”

Patin said that while some there were some exceptions, uniformity in the code ensured a headache-free approach.

All three committee members present voted to have staff present a discussion item for the city council that would allow direction given to the city attorney’s office for a response on the code.