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Fort Bragg Notes (May 26, 2021)

CHAIN STORES — Monday evening, the Fort Bragg City Council considered extending its moratorium on formula businesses in the "inland zone" - basically the part of town not in the Coastal Zone, where development often requires Coastal Commission approval.

In April, the council approved a ban on approving applications from chain businesses to give itself time to consider an ordinance on the subject. This followed the latest in a series of bitter fights over letting in chains — at that time Autozone's proposal to open a chain store on the ocean side of Highway 1 in Fort Bragg, which was rejected.

Council members asked the Planning Commission to come up with a draft ordinance which, according to City Hall staff, is nearly done, but the moratorium expires on May 27.

The only current proposal the moratorium affects is Dollar General's bid to open a store on South Franklin Street. Grocery Outlet is also proposing to come to Fort Bragg, but its proposal is in the Coastal Zone, and not part of the moratorium. Overall, the local public seems enthusiastic about Grocery Outlet and lukewarm on Dollar General.

City Hall staff is recommending the Council extend the moratorium for ten months and fifteen days, the maximum allowed by state law. The council could end the moratorium sooner, staff notes, but ten months would give the Council plenty of time to consider the ordinance the Planning Commission is expected to deliver soon. Extending the moratorium would require a yes vote from four of the five city council members. 

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THE SMELL — AND DESAL. Fort Bragg's Coastal Trail is a gem, but as more people discover it, they also discover that parts of it smell sometimes — like a sewer, actually.

This is because one particularly beautiful stretch of trail swings very close to Fort Bragg's wastewater treatment facility, aka its sewer plant. The Noyo Center for Marine Science's A-frame fun center also has a front row seat for the stench when the wind is right.

Complaints have been on the rise recently, and the city is attacking the problem with various sewage additives that by most reports aren't doing much good.

The longer term solution, to be installed in the fall, according to City Manager Tabatha Miller, is a small desalination unit that will allow the plant to use saltier river water to help flush the "solids,” and hopefully cut down the smell, Miller said.

An interesting side note: according to Miller, the small and affordable wastewater desal unit would be a significant first step toward developing desalination as a drinking water source in Fort Bragg. Desal has been a dream of long-time council member Lindy Peters, and others, for decades, and has often been presented as the ultimate solution to Fort Bragg's many water challenges. Miller said water conservation and expanding the town's water storage capacity (reservoirs and tanks) is the shorter term priority.

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