The Mesquite City Council worked to clarify an ordinance recently passed that requires a Homeowners Association (HOA) to approve a project within its jurisdiction before being presented to the council. As City Attorney Bob Sweetin explained it, the original ordinance language didn’t take into account the possibility of an HOA refusing or delaying on purpose any action on a project proposal.

In introducing the revision, Councilman George Gault said that “right now we have a project being held up for several hundred apartments because we’re waiting for an HOA to respond.” The clarification will give an HOA a set amount of time to respond and require the response to be in writing to the council. “It moves a project along and facilitates development,” Gault said.

Councilwoman Annie Black objected to a provision that would give the city’s Development Services Director authority to deny any proposal from coming to the council rather than the council itself deciding on the merits of the request.“It allows me as a director to reject an application if it hasn’t gone to the HOA yet,” Development Services Director Richard Secrist said. “It doesn’t say I have to reject it. It says I have to give the HOA notice that a project is being proposed. It gives them 30 days to respond in a written statement. Then we can take that to the council.”

Secrist also clarified that an HOA doesn’t have to approve a project beforehand; they just have to make a decision before it goes to council.

Sweetin said that since the ordinance was only being introduced, any changes the council wanted in the language can be changed before it comes back for approval.

Councilman George Rapson also objected saying he wants to see the old ordinance side-by-side with the new ordinance to determine what has changed. “Why don’t we just add the 30-day requirement to the old ordinance?”

“Part of what we’re trying to fix is that the HOA is simply not acting,” Gault said referring to a specific project proposal. “We can’t get to the point of getting the HOA’s position statement so the council can act on it and the developer can move on. Falcon Ridge HOA is holding up a project.”

“They have a right to hold it up,” Rapson responded. “The HOA could deny it right now. Instead, they’re negotiating with the developer to work out their differences. I’m not sure what this resolves, especially in this instance. This [ordinance change] doesn’t help that.”

“I felt like it did,” Gault said. “At this point, the HOA is trying to look at the color of paint on the walls in the apartments. They’re way past what they can do under their CC&Rs.”

“We still can’t tell them [HOA] they have to take something that their design standards don’t allow,” Rapson said.

“We can’t change the HOA’s design standards handbook,” Secrist said. “But, one of the problems here is that the HOA is making decisions outside their handbook. [Their objections] have nothing to do with the design standards handbook.”

Rapson said that the HOA and developer are negotiating over things under the design standards. He argued that if the time limit was put in place, the HOA could outright reject it or the developer could simply walk away from the project and “then it’s done. I can’t support this.”

The motion to introduce the ordinance change failed with Rapson, Black, and Councilman Brian Wursten voting no. Gault and Councilwoman Sandra Ramaker voted yes.

Confirming that the third time is the charm, the council approved revised requests from the Virgin Valley High and Hughes Middle Schools for allocations of marijuana sales tax receipts after two failed attempts.

The council rejected previous requests saying that the schools did not adequately justify how they would spend the money and that the schools did not provide specific ties to academic-related uses.

According to the agenda items’ background material, “Both schools have made changes with the City Attorney’s review and approval to make sure they fall under the category of Academics. Specifically, the City Attorney’s position is that all of the new proposals from the High School are academic.  The fact that they are academic is self-evident, in that money would be used for books, science materials, and ACT prep courses (among other areas).

“As to the Middle School, the City Attorney in reviewing the matter with Principal Perkins has removed both “BMX Club” and “Slime and Dessert Club” from the list of approved uses. Council did not raise other specific issues with the Middle School and it appears funding will be used for academic purposes.”

“Next year I would like to see a two-phase program,” Rapson said. “Phase one, let’s quantify what happened with this money. How was it spent? What were the measurables? The second phase will be the application [for the next allotment] itself.”

When the council initially approved allocating marijuana tax monies to the schools, the principals and the Community Education Advisory Board were required to provide follow-up information to the council regarding how the funds were expended the previous year. That didn’t happen this year, the second year of the program.

The middle school will receive $14,414 that will be used for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math instructional activities and for after school extracurricular clubs.

The high school will receive $17,597 in total with $8,659 going to improve the culinary program, $5,700 for ACT test prep programs that will affect 578 students, and $3,237 for AP test waiver fees for low income students.

The two elementary schools were previously approved to receive their allocation of the marijuana sales tax monies.

Virgin Valley Elementary School will get $15,166 with the bulk of that, $7,040, paying for a certified temporary tutor, $1,980 for substitute teacher hours, two before school tutors costing $2,415 and National Geographic reading materials worth $3,731.

Bowler Elementary School was awarded a total of $12,732 that would pay for literacy remediation curriculum materials for students in grades 2 through 5.

Just before the council unanimously approved the requests, Mayor Al Litman said, “I think they finally got it right.”