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Twentynine Palms, Cal.- The Twentynine Palms City Council met in regular session last evening to discuss a full agenda after calling the meeting to order and listening to a beautiful piece of classical music I have not heard in a long time.
The Twentynine Palms Council decided to allow and respect each citizen’s right to give an invocation, chant or hum. This evening, Almut Fleck played 3 minutes of classical music to bring peace and calm to those in attendance.
I spoke on behalf of a 29Palms property owner regarding agenda item #14, to consider purchasing 70 acres from the Huell Howser Estate for a park to “honor Huell Houser” at a cost of $354,000. This agenda item which was listed under the heading “Discussion and Potential Action Items” and on the following “Closed Session” to discuss terms, price and conditions authorizing the manager to negotiate the purchase of that property.
It appeared the “Fix was Inn,” especially after reviewing the email sent out by Staff member Randy Councell to certain citizens urging them to support this purchase. See previous post with documents>LINK
During the Staff report by Randy Councell, he said two weeks ago he was contacted by a real estate company handling the estate of Huell Houser to sell 70 acres and a home situated in Twentynine Palms and wanted to know if the City was interested. Councell said he brought the idea forth to Mayor Danny Mintz and City Manager, Joe Guzzetta. He then said, “We came up with the cost of $354,000.” (The Staff report said the property was listed at $354,000.) Mintz jumped in to say that the Council could not discuss the price and had to wait until they met in closed session. Randy spent a long time speaking on the virtues of buying such a large property, the right of way, it meets the Parks Master plan, a once in a lifetime to control large acreage and engineering saw value to develop catch basins to mitigate flood control issues, etc, etc, etc. Randy even proposed the name “California Gold Park” because Huell Howser would not allow his name to be used for this project being proposed for purchase “to honor Huell Howser.”
Councilman Joel Klink announced his property was 500 feet from this parcel and provided a map to verify he had no conflict of interest. If an elected official owns property within 300 feet of a project or property, he or she must disclose that information, recuse themselves and leave the room during any discussions or voting. I personally was glad to see Klink proactive to clear the air that he had no conflict of interest and could participate in the discussions and closed session. Alas, the Closed Session was cancelled due to the consensus of the Council to pass on this property despite the anticipated rubber stamp approval that did not happen.
I raised many questions regarding the lack of information on the property listed in the Staff report that did not fully disclose the surrounding area, current zoning, flood plain disposition or if there was a well on the property. I proposed that this acreage could be developed as a large scale housing complex bringing roof tops and property tax revenues to the city versus a city park with water and maintenance costs.
Finally I stated, “I am in possession of an email sent out on this agenda item. I would like to know who authorized Staff (Randy Councell) to send out an email using the city’s computer and city’s email address to promote this purchase?” Only two councilmen appeared surprised to hear this revelation. >Councell Email – Copy
Tamara Alaniz, General Manager of the 29Palms Water Department, emailed her concerns regarding large water usage for additional turf which was read into the record. Realtor Larry Briggs, Sr. spoke at the lectern against purchasing this property giving the councilmen the run down as per his detailed analysis. Paul Smith from the Twentynine Palms Inn said, “Well, here I am to give you a shout-out! Go for it!”
Councilman Jay Corbin was the first one to come down against this purchase for many reasons. No, no, no! “I’m against land banking!” Corbin said he reviewed the Parks Master Plan and this property did not fit in. He also added the city already owns the right-of-way through this property. Councilman Joel Klink said no, especially if this was going to be designated for a dog park and the money could be better spent on a homeless shelter. Someone brought up the fact the council recently passed on purchasing 50 acres in a better part of the town for 1/3 the price!
Mayor Mintz still called for the motion…there was none. He then moved to remove the Closed Session scheduled at the end of the meeting to discuss negotiating the property.
End of this story….
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