Meeting closed to public due to COVID-19 spike
Those behind the Ridgecrest casino project are asking for more time to purchase the land for the project due to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and casino investment company Global Investment Enterprise Ridgecrest (GIER) have requested a one-year extension of the purchase and sale agreement for land to build a Native American gaming establishment in Ridgecrest, according to a Ridgecrest City Council amended agenda for Dec. 16 distributed last weekend.
In a last-minute decision, the council meeting tomorrow will be closed to in-person attendance. “Due to a recent spike in COVID cases in the valley, the City Council meeting being held this Wednesday . . . will be closed to public participation,” according to a Tuesday morning email release from City Clerk Ricca Charlon.
All council meetings will be closed to public attendance until further notice with only council members and essential staff allowed to attend in person, according to the release. The release further states that these attendees will be seated the recommended distance from each other. Public participation is possible only by calling in or submitting written correspondence. (See details at end of article.)
The proposed casino would be built on 26.48 acres of Ridgecrest successor agency land within the city, near the front gate to the base.
The topic caused a long and divisive debate and dispute in the community, but a settlement agreement was eventually reached between the city (acting as the successor agency) and GIER with Feb. 2, 2021 as the original closing date to finalize the land sale.
The new agreement would bump the deadline to Feb. 2, 2022. The rationale for the request is that the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down much of the economy, including the gaming industry, and thus made difficult for the tribe and developers to secure financing to purchase the land and develop the casino, according to a staff report.
The agreement would also contain the following provisions: If approved, GIER will pay a fifth independent consideration of $1,000 to the Successor Agency two days after approval of the agreement; a sixth independent consideration of $27,000 to the Successor Agency on or before Feb. 2, 2021 and a seventh independent consideration of $28,000 to the Successor Agency on or before Aug. 2, 2021.
City staff supports the agreement, according to the report.
The amended agenda also now contains a closed session item, described as a “conference with real property negotiator.” It lists City Manager Ron Strand as negotiating with Global Investment Enterprise Ridgecrest, LLC about “price and terms of payment” for multiple lots in the city of Ridgecrest.
The closed session will take place after the regular meeting begins at 6 p.m., according to the amended agenda. The closed session will follow an awards presentation by Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, the swearing-in of Mayor Eric Bruen and Council Members Kyle Blades and Solomon Rajaratnam, and presentations to outgoing Mayor Peggy Breeden and outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens.
The amended agenda will allow the newly elected officials to take part in the closed session discussion after being sworn in.
A report from the city attorney will follow the closed session.
How to participate ‘virtually’
Council meetings are routinely streamed live at https://ridgecrest-ca.gov/369/Watch or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/cityofridgecrest/live and are also available for playback after the meeting.
To call in for public comments call 760-499-5010. The city asks callers to be patient. The phone line will allow only one caller at a time, so if the line is busy callers are asked to continue to dial. The city will be allowing a 20-30 second delay between callers to give time for media delays and callers to dial in. Callers wishing to comment on multiple items are asked to call in separately as each item is presented.
Written comments supporting, opposing, or otherwise commenting on an agenda item can be submitted for distribution to the City Council prior to the meeting. Send emails to [email protected] Written correspondence may be sent to Ricca Charlon, City Clerk, 100 W. California Ave., Ridgecrest, CA 93555. Those writing are asked to specify to which agenda item the comment relates.
“All communication, whether it is a formal letter or an online informal email, is read by the City Council,” according to the release.
Access the City Council agenda, minutes and video web page at https://ridgecrest-ca.gov/212/City-Council.
The process is temporary and subject to change due to various circumstances, according to the release. Those with questions are asked to call Charlon at 760-499-5002.