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Mayor Eric Bruen poses with members representing the local Community Action Partnership of Kern County (CAPK). The City Council has proclaimed May of this year as “Community Action Month.” - Laura Austin Photo

City clears the way for new Villa Crest Apartments

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer —

The City Council began its May 17th meeting by recognizing a number of vital public services in Ridgecrest.  The goals of these services range from helping struggling families to administering lifesaving care to providing critical infrastructure.  The Council also approved a zone change from R-2 (medium density) to R-3 (high density), clearing the way for a new multi-family complex, Villa Crest Apartments, to begin its first phase on what would eventually become a 361-unit development off South Downs Street.  Discussed during the committee reports were banners promoting the downtown area, ongoing waste management issues, and Ridgecrest’s financial health.

Councilmember John ‘Skip’ Gorman began the “Presentation of Proclamations” by recognizing the people of the Community Action Partnership of Kern County (CAPK) for their contributions to local individuals and families.  One of the ways CAPK helps families is by teaching young children Kindergarten readiness at the local Oasis Head Start.  Another service offered is the Oasis Family Resource Center, which assists economically challenged families with food and other practical assistance.  Gorman declared May 2023 as “Community Action Month” to recognize this group’s positive impact on our community.

Next, Vice Mayor Kyle Blades recognized four different groups: Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, the Kern County Fire Department, Liberty Ambulance, and the Ridgecrest Police Department.  Blades proclaimed that all these groups “stand ready to provide lifesaving care to those in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”  To recognize the value and accomplishments of these providers, this week was proclaimed “EMS Week” with the theme “EMS Strong.”

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Representatives from the emergency responders’ groups display a Proclamation given by the City Council to recognize their hard work and dedication. It declared this week as “EMS Week” with its theme, “EMS Strong.” – Laura Austin Photo

Finally, Councilmember Scott Hayman recognized members of the public works team who maintain services for water, streets, waste management, and public buildings and vehicles.  Hayman stated that all these workers “contribute to the quality of life both residents and visitors enjoy,” creating “health, safety, and comfort in this community.”  This week was announced as “National Public Works Week.”

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Councilmember Scott Hayman and Public Works Director, Travis Reed pose with employees who represent the many vital public services supporting Ridgecrest. This week is proclaimed “National Public Works Week.” – Laura Austin Photo

Under “Discussion/Action Items,” a zone change was discussed for the proposed multi-family complex, Villa Crest Apartments, located on an approximately 21-acre parcel east of Downs Street and south of Rader Avenue.  The existing zone is for medium density (R-2) and a park, but the proposal was to remove the park designation and zone for high density (R-3), which allows for 361 units to be constructed.  Among the objections were the nearby homeowners’ loss of views due to tall buildings, the impact on the surrounding schools, and the increase in traffic on Bowman.  Blades recognized the impact of this zone change, “Every time we make a decision like this, it has a 20 to 30-year ramification to the people who have been here for generations, and even the younger ones.”  However, after the objections were sufficiently answered, such as an additional bridge entrance on Bowman, the Council voted to change the zoning to the higher density and to remove the park designation.

In his committee report for “City Org,” Mayor Eric Bruen spoke of a company’s proposal to provide locally sponsored banners that would be placed along Balsam and the historical district on Ridgecrest Boulevard.  He said “the cost would be neutral to the city,” and the goal is to “make a more vibrant downtown.”  In the same report, Gorman brought up waste management problems, such as staff shortages and challenges with pick-ups.  He encouraged people to call Kelly, the local contact, at (760) 375-8495 with any issues.

On behalf of the Finance Committee, Hayman gave a brief overview of the revenue from sales tax and property taxes.  “Overall,” he said, “finances are moving comfortably along.”  Bruen added, “The city’s finances remain strong and vibrant thanks to the citizens’ support of Measures V and P.”

He announced there would be a 4-hour Budget Workshop on May 31 at the City Hall Council Chambers at 5 pm.