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Hill may rejoin economic group

If appointed, Newport Beach councilman could guide city's policies toward businesses. He held same job in 1990s.

January 07, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

Editor's note: This corrects what happened regarding the Cannery in the 1990s. According to the city’s Planning Department, the city issued a citation to the Cannery, which had allowed dancing without a permit. The restaurant then applied for a dancing permit, but the City Council denied the Cannery the permit.

NEWPORT BEACH — If the City Council confirms Mayor Mike Henn's committee appointments Tuesday, business owners will likely rejoice and residents may want to pay close attention.

First-term Councilman Rush Hill has been nominated to be the chairman of the Economic Development Committee. It's a position he held in the 1990s, a tenuous time between residents and neighboring businesses.

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Hill may guide the city's policies toward builders, restaurateurs and other business people who need to perform well, yet peacefully coexist with neighbors.

These rules will become especially important when developers plan waterfront mixed-use buildings on Mariner's Mile and Lido Marina Village, and city administrators are called to regulate them.

"He knows exactly what the process is and what it should be," said Richard Luehrs, president and chief executive officer of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Luehrs said that city building officials can sometimes be overly strict when interpreting state laws.

Representatives from chain companies looking to expand in Newport, he said, often complain to him that Newport demands more than others.

Hill, if confirmed, would review all city policies toward businesses and would look for ways to improve processes and rules, he said in a phone interview.

He wants to "remove regulation for the sense of regulation," he said. "I don't believe government exists to regulate beyond what is necessary to protect the welfare of the public."

His past experience on the committee shows that Hill, a business owner, predictably leans toward fewer limits.

When residential neighbors complained about rowdy patrons of bars and restaurants, the city in the late 1990s constrained some businesses. It denied the dancing permit at the Cannery restaurant after the Cannery was cited for having dancing without a permit and restricted hours at Windows on the Bay, a Coast Highway restaurant, and imposed rules on other businesses.

According to news reports from the time, Hill resigned from the committee in 1998 because he thought the city was being too restrictive.

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