Isleton Planning Commission Special Meeting: New Business on the Horizon but Old Problems Persist

C.A. Giacoma
Staff Writer
February 24, 2016

River News-HeraldIsleton community leaders were busy this past week. Planning Commission members Chima, O’Brien, Garcia and Chairman Giovannoni met in a special session on Tuesday evening to discuss issues that needed to be addressed at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Also present were City Clerk Yvonne Zepeda and City Manager Dan Hinrichs.
The Planning Commission continues to move forward with refining and finalizing changes to the ordinances and city codes to improve efficiency and put in place enforcement procedures that will improve fiscal responsibility and encourage new investment ventures coming into the community.

Hinrichs reported that he didn’t have much to say except that he feels the City should use a recently received grant to hire a city planner to write a workable design plan and layout for all development going forward. Hinrichs noted that, in the past, unscrupulous developers have taken advantage of Isleton’s lack of a proper plan and that this has been a very costly mistake. He also mentioned the need to increase certain fees to more realistic rates that are part of development such as sewer connection fees, etc – which will require a revenue program and a prior study.

Commissioner Garcia brought up the fact that the City already has a plan that was written by Roger Chen but was never implemented. Chairman Giovannoni stated that any plan will have to be brought before the citizens and discussed fully in order to serve the community by incorporating all of Isleton as a whole, old and new, business and residential. Giovannoni added that this is in the beginning stages and that there is much to work out going forward. City Council member Pam Bulahan clarified for the Commissioners that the existing City Plan done by Chen is known as Resolution 87-2.

Citizen Gustavo “Gus” Montano stood and spoke regarding his frustration with the continuing crime that seems to go on unabated. Mr Montano related an event of a few nights previous when thieves on a “quad” stolen from KayDix Farm drove through the trailer Park pursued by hunters who were chasing them in an effort to recover stolen goods. Montano also spoke of finding drug paraphernalia in public facilities and the seeming lack of any form of enforcement. Mr. Montano made the point that he has lived in Isleton all of his life and that there was never such a high level of crime in the past. He would like to know what is being done to address this ongoing issue. Giovannoni responded strongly by stating the paramount importance of reporting all incidents of theft, drugs and other crimes to the Sheriff’s Deptartment so they can be logged and documented with the hope that this will engage the Sheriffs in addressing these issues. He also mentioned the presence of vagrant drug users who are living in a large stand of bamboo at the edge of town and the need to route them out. He explained that Isleton “was able to go side-ways for so long that it is going to take time, it won’t turn around overnight,” and that they now have a very pro-active Planning Commission and are intent on turning the City around.

Michael Stoneking spoke about the new tourism-based wine tasting locale he plans to open in the former bank building. Stoneking explained that the name of the business will be “Islands in the Stream” and that it will be multi-faceted and include local and regional wineries in a tasting room. He also plans to include it as a stop on winery tours throughout the greater wine making region. Local hotels and restaurants will also be able to participate as local food and accommodation options to the clientele. Mr. Stoneking hopes for a Summer 2016 launch for the new endeavor. A vote was taken and Mr. Stoneking’s plan was unanimously approved by all commissioners present.

Also on the agenda to be heard in this special meeting was the proposed expansion of a licensed card room in the space formerly occupied by the Del Rio Bar. Once again, the owner failed to attend the planning meeting and has continued to be in noncompliance with the requirement to provide adequate parking. He has also failed to complete the fire escape work required by the Fire Department last year and is in arrears on sewer fee payments, which must be brought up to date before permits can be issued for any further work on the premises.

Jack Chima requested that the issue of hiring an enforcement officer be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.

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