Protect Sierra Madre had only 30 days to get the signatures of 10% of Sierra Madre voters, asking for an election (a referendum) to overturn the City Council’s approval of the Meadows project. 1,300 signatures (more than the required 10% of 850) were reviewed by the County.
Once the official Certification is returned to the City Clerk, it was presented to the City Council. They had 3 options – to rescind their approval of the project, to schedule the election on the referendum for Nov 2024, or to call an earlier special election. A special election is generally requested by the developer, who would then pay for that election. In this case, the developer put pressure on the city saying they would put in an even worse project and only offered to pay 50%. The special election is set for Tuesday, May 9, 2023.
It is important to note that a vote to overturn City Council’s decision, approving The Meadows Specific Plan, does not make any permanent change. It does, however, stop The Meadows, a tract housing subdivision of multi-million dollar over-sized houses.
By voting to overturn the approval through Voting NO on Measure M, Sierra Madre residents are sending a clear message that they want the developer and the City Council to be open to making changes in any project to develop the monastery parcel, and to consider the citizens’ opinions in those changes.
Property owners do have a right to do with their property whatever is allowed by our ordinances and State law. They are allowed to sell their property and to receive fair market value for it. But our regulations make sure that the rights of a property owner can NOT negatively impact the rights of other residents or be contrary to the policies established in our General Plan.
Our ordinances include many requirements and safeguards that can prevent ANY development that does not conform to Sierra Madre standards. The City is able to restrict or deny any development that would be contrary to our General Plan policies and ordinance requirements.
Our ordinances consider the impact of any development on surrounding property owners, and require that a rezoning must not grant a special privilege to a single property owner.
Sierra Madre has established objective design and development standards in our zoning ordinances to ensure that any development, whether reviewed by our Planning Department, Planning Commission or City Council, will be held to the same standards that have limited overdevelopment in our City.
We have protections in place – when our General Plan and Ordinances are fairly applied to EVERY applicant!
However, in 2020, a negotiated agreement between the former City Manager and a representative of the Passionists in Illinois known as the “Memorandum Of Understanding” included a SPECIFIC PLAN for the Meadows Project. Although Specific Plans are supposed to abide by a City’s General Plan and zoning rules, the Passionists were able to evade those protections in our ordinances that every other property owner is bound by. And that is because the City Council approved that Plan.
Citizens were not made aware of the planned MOU as it was signed at the first Council meeting it was presented, a few months after the water moratorium was lifted – and during the Covid shutdown.
The City Council, before entering into that binding agreement, never considered, or discussed with the Citizens, any other possible option that might allow the Passionists a fair market price for their land, protect the serenity of their retreats and ALSO protect the values of our General Plan. They never considered, or pursued with their constituents the possibility that the State and Conservation groups might now have funds that could help the city buy and conserve the land for the environment, the wildlife and the Citizens.
They never considered, or discussed with the Citizens, whether the impacts of a development that they are required to limit under our existing ordinances, might be preferable to the special privileges they extended to the single landowner. Special privileges that were never presented to, or discussed with, the Citizens of Sierra Madre.
By voting NO on Measure M to overturn the City Council’s approval of the project, we citizens will make it clear – we do NOT think the project approved is the best plan for that parcel.
We residents believe that the City Council should enforce the General Plan and Ordinances that protect the special nature of our town. And, most importantly, feel that they must consider the opinions of the residents who love Sierra Madre, who they have promised to represent.