Public hearing for proposed Benedetti car wash to see another day

The Sebastopol City Council will host the extended public hearing for a proposed car wash in the downtown core at the upcoming March 2 city council meeting at 6 p.m. over Zoom, postponed from Feb. 16, according to the Feb. 16 agenda.

As Sonoma West Times & News reported in January, the applicant Mark Reece seeks to establish an automated car wash next to his existing business, Benedetti Tire Service & Express Lube.

City council steps towards more electronic filing

Council members positioned the city to go paperless with campaign finance disclosure statements and statements of economic interest at the Feb. 16 meeting.

The council approved the first reading and introduction to an ordinance City Clerk Mary Gourley said would add to the Sebastopol Municipal Code a requirement to electronically file those documents.

“Local government agencies can require that by adopting an ordinance. This is required for filers who receive contributions or make expenditures that would be $2,000 or more, and that is through FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) regulations,” she said.

Anyone or any group spending or drumming up funds in local elections need to file campaign disclosure statements under the California Political Reform Act, the agenda report said.

Local candidates and the people for or against them or ballot measures are among those required to file the documents, Gourley said. Meanwhile, statements of economic interest, or Form 700 documents, need to be filed by certain employees and all elected and appointed officials, the agenda report said.

Gourley said the electronic filing would be free for filers and improve consistency because the online program would bounce back any detected errors. In addition to saving paper and fulfilling zero waste commitments, “this creates more of a transparency, more of a clear reporting system,” she said.

The new method of uploading documents to the website would help filers meet reporting requirements and make the information more accessible to the community, according to the city clerk. “They’ll have all the forms there, they can review them and they don’t have to come through staff to be able to get that,” she said.

The electronic filing would become a requirement, although Gourley said she would assist anyone with challenges filing electronically so they could achieve that, inviting them to the office if necessary.

Gourley said these documents are usually filed with her as the city clerk and Sebastopol’s local filing officer, but they can also go to FPPC.

“Currently, there are certain positions that file directly with FPPC, such as the city council and the planning commission, and then there are others that file directly with me, such as Design Review Board, city staff, city consultants,” she said.

The decision also authorized city staff to contract the technology company Granicus as the software host, Gourley said over email Feb. 24. At the meeting, she said Granicus would post the statements online and automatically transmit them to FPPC, saving staff time.

The council waived the full reading of the ordinance that Gourley said would come back for adoption through the consent calendar at the following March 2 meeting.

“It’s about time!” Slayter said.

Gourley concluded, “I’m really happy that we’re able to do this. Again, not just for the ease and taking away of a lot of the paper from city hall, and filing it and all that, but just a way for more transparency for our government.”

City council appoints alternate member of the Design Review Board

The Sebastopol City Council voted 3-2 to appoint Marshall Balfe to the Design Review Board (DRB) alternate position at the Feb. 16 city council meeting, with Mayor Una Glass and Councilmember Patrick Slayter at odds with the decision.

“Where I am with this is that, honestly, my preference is to reopen the application and see what other applications we might receive. I’m not fully comfortable with our choices this evening,” said Slayter.

Glass said it concerned her that Slayter, bringing experience as an architect to the council, preferred to reopen the application for more candidates.

Councilmember Diana Rich said both Balfe and Lynn Deedler, the other applicant, stood out to her with their experience and community interest, but that she wanted to give Balfe a chance to get involved as Deedler has already served on the board before.

Vice Mayor Sarah Glade Gurney and Councilmember Neysa Hinton expressed support for Balfe and his collaborative approach to talk out possible disagreements that arise on the board. Gurney said she liked that he mentioned in his interview how fun his work has been.

“I think that’s a really important attitude to bring when we’re looking at a professional body which by its very nature and definition could have some conflicts in design choices, and we’re asking them to get on collaboratively and work together.”

Gurney said Slayter’s design experience has helped her on the council before, but said, “I think we have to be rather careful not to cross lines and mix things up there, especially when I think we have a good applicant.”

Gurney and Hinton spoke to the ongoing issue of not having enough applicants for city-related openings but that they wanted to proceed with present qualified candidates. Rich also said she greatly respected Slayter’s experience but agreed she wanted to go ahead with the applicants.

“I do always wish we had in some ways more applications, but I’m not sure that reopening the process would draw us additional candidates,” Hinton said. “I also feel a sense of fairness that when we do put something out, if we have candidates that have the credentials to be on the board, I think we should move forward,” she said, backing Balfe. 

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