The Manteca City Council Tuesday overturned a decision made two weeks prior to allow Inner City Action to put a tent for use as a homeless resource center at the parking lot of the former Qualex building on Industrial Park Drive.
The tent — which is already in place — may or may not stay depending upon what unfolds next.
The controversy centers on the 4-1 council decision at the April 2 meeting to allow Inner City Action to put a tent in place without the required conditional use permit. The council majority — with Councilman Dave Breitenbucher dissenting — wanted to expedite getting the Inner City Action resource center up and running while efforts are underway to see if it is possible for the city to sell the redevelopment agency owned 57,000-square-foot building to the non-profit for $1.
City Attorney John Brinton made it clear at the April 2 meeting that the council had the legal power but not the legal authority to ignore established zoning rules by waiving the requirement for a conditional use permit to allow the tent to be placed in the light industrial zone.
This Tuesday when the minutes of the April 2 meeting were up for approval the question about the legality of the council’s action came into question. Following a discussion and a short five-minute recess, the council was advised they could add an action item to the agenda on a four-fifths vote based on the determination that new pressing information that the council was not aware of before the agenda was posted had come up.
The council voted to add the item to reverse their April 2 decision regarding the conditional use permit. Then on a 4-1 vote with Mayor Ben Cantu dissenting moved to yank the conditional use permit that the council majority conceded was an illegal action.
That decision brought up several issues that were not addressed.
It was asked whether the city would order Inner City Action to remove the tent until they secured a conditional use permit that can take six months to obtain.
Breitenbucher pushed for the city to “do the right thing” and direct Inner City Action to remove the tent until they obtain a conditional use permit.
“It may not be the popular decision,” Breitenbucher said. “It is the right decision.”
Cantu disagreed saying that in April he voted to make the right decision.
“(Over the years) we, the city, have turned our eyes the other way in certain situations,” Cantu said in reference to letting the tent stay in place until a conditional use permit was processed.
At one point City Manager Tim Ogden said “we can get a little creative and look the other way” until the conditional use permit is approved.
The council also brought code enforcement into the discussion noting that the city most of the time doesn’t enforce zoning code violations unless they receive a complaint.
Community Development Director Greg Showerman said the conditional use permit will require notifying property owners within 300 feet of the Qualex property lines and the staff making certain findings before it is presented to the Manteca Planning Commission for consideration.
The council did not touch on whether they would waive the $9,514 cost of the conditional use permit for Inner City Action by covering the cost from municipal reserves.
It was that question at the April 2 meeting plus the long wait for the processing of a conditional use permit that triggered the 4-1 vote to drop the conditional use permit requirement.
Council members Gary Singh and Debby Moorhead said they want to try and make sure homeless resource center services are in place while the city works toward securing a permanent location for the Inner City Action operation.
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