Sonora Mayor Connie Williams has recommended the owner of a downtown antique store for the business representative position on the city’s newly formed homeless task force after the council rejected building owner Hazel Mitchell’s appointment earlier this month.

Marianne Wright, owner of Tar Flat Sonora, is the recommended appointee for the position on the task force that will look at long-term solutions for reducing homelessness within the three-square-mile city limits.

“I’m not really there to figure this out, I’m there more as a representative for merchants,” said Wright. “I’m not ATCAA (the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency) or anything like that.”

Wright said she has been a merchant in the city for the past 25 years and wanted to be on the task force to make sure whatever solutions it proposes won’t negatively impact the local business community.

At recent public meetings, Wright has spoken in favor of the city’s new ordinance that bans camping in public or on private property, because her parents own land within the city and have experienced trespassers starting fires and doing drugs.

“I’m very supportive of the camping ban, because I think it’s gotten to the point where people were sneaking onto private lands, and this gives law enforcement something else other than no trespassing to deal with it,” Wright said.

Wright said she believes part of the problem stems from the shortage of housing in the area that families and working people can afford.

As a member of the task force, Wright said she wants to look at the city’s building fees and regulations to see if there’s a way to make it easier and less expensive for people to develop smaller sized homes.

“There’s something keeping us from building those types of homes,” Wright said. “If a couple is each making $15 an hour like my parents were, they should be able to build a 1,200- or 1,500-square-foot house.”

The council will have to vote in favor of approving Wright’s appointment at a meeting that begins at 5 p.m. Monday in City Hall at 94 N. Washington St.

Mitchell was previously tapped for the position as the owner of buildings in the downtown area that house several businesses, including the Candy Vault, Ventana Art Gallery and Shear Results hair salon.

Several merchants and council members expressed concerns at a Sept. 5 meeting about Mitchell’s role as the CEO of Give Someone a Chance, a homeless aid organization she co-founded with her husband.

Williams said at the meeting that only Mitchell and one other person applied for the position out of a total of 21 applications for five openings on the task force.

Those who were opposed to Mitchell’s appointment felt her work with the county’s homeless population would hinder her ability to effectively represent the city’s business community on the task force.

Mitchell said in an interview on Sept. 6 that she applied for the position because she wanted to help the city reduce the presence of homeless people in the downtown area, which affects businesses in the buildings she owns.

The council ultimately voted to reopen the application process for the business representative and add a requirement for people applying to have a valid business license with the city.

Members of the task force who were previously appointed are Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Garaventa and Councilman Matt Hawkins to represent the council, Interfaith to represent charitable organizations, ATCAA to represent service agencies, Jeanette Lambert as the homeless advocate, and Colette Such to represent the public.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council is scheduled to consider a request by Trado Restaurant Corporation for an easement to use a portion of the city-owned Coffill parking lot on South Green Street to support ongoing work related to the company’s ongoing beer garden project.

The easement would allow for the installation of a PG&E transformer, grease interceptor, bike rack, and sewer, water, electrical and propane infrastructure in a portion of the parking lot.

In exchange, the company that was founded by Bourbon Barrel owner Doug Kennedy and his wife, Tracie Snitker Kennedy, would make $110,000 worth of improvements to the parking lot, which includes re-surfacing and grading the lot, installing two handicapped parking spaces, and sidewalk improvements.

All of the work would reduce the total number of spaces from 29 to 27.

The Tuolumne County Transit Agency will also ask the council on Monday to approve no-parking zones on the north and south sides of Stockton Road near Green Street for trolley service to the Unruly Country Brew N Que Festival between noon and 10 p.m. Sept. 30.

Trado Restaurant Corporation, the festival organizer, was recently granted free trolley service to the event by the agency’s board of directors despite concerns that the taxpayer-funded service is typically not provided to for-profit events.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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