Long debate brings
slow growth vote
By Jesse Phelps
After two-and-a-half hours of
debate, input, tweaking, listening and re-tweaking, the council
voted in a narrow 3-2 decision to approve a new growth management
ordinance. And in the end, after all the hoopla, the ordinance
passed exactly as drafted by city attorney Monte Widders.
The new 10-year plan, like the original drafted in 1979 and in
effect until 2000, puts stringent limits on the numbers of single-
and multi-family residences that could be constucted every year
within city limits. Per year, only 12 single-family and four
multi-family residences could be allocated. It also exempts senior
and low-income housing projects from those limits.
In addition, Widders said, he designed the new plan to take into
account yearly population and density changes.
Just two weeks ago, the planning commission approved the ordinance
unanimously, though there was some debate about an idea put forth
by commissioner Paul Blatz to borrow housing allocations from
future years for any approved senior and low-income housing complexes
with more than the generally allowed allocable units.
The idea resulted in a motion by Craig Brown recommending that
the council allow staff to track and measure unused allocations
against exempted projects and explore the practice of borrowing
allocations from future years to account for units used for those
On Tuesday, this concept found its primary advocate in council
member David Bury, who also suggested a cautionary addendum.
"If we use the borrowing concept, I'd like to see a cap
on how far ahead we can borrow," said Bury.
Bury suggested that a borrowing system should also limit the
number of allocations that might be used from any given future
year. An example he used stipulated a cap of five out of the
12 total single-family allocations that could be borrowed for
a senior housing project.
But other members of the council were lukewarm at best regarding
a borrowing system. Councilwoman Carol Smith advocated a return
to banking unused units from a given year and only approving
projects that fit within the unused allocations from years past.
Though not part of the original ordinance, council and planning
had been using the banking system for years to keep control of
construction. Still, all involved confirmed that construction
has never kept pace with even the limited number of allocations
But Councilwoman Rae Hanstad said she "would feel nervous
about banking or borrowing from the future without far more information."
Community development director Robert Casias concurred and cautioned
council that they might actually, saying, "You could have
a de facto moratorium (on new developments), whether you want
one or not."
In the end, despite much discussion about the banking and borrowing
ideas, an eloquent list of suggestion from citizen Bill Miley
and a caveat from Citizens to Preserve the Ojai regarding the
valley's air quality problems - they introduced several charts
showing that Ojai is by far the least healthy airshed in the
county - council decided to get something on the books now, rather
than wait to revise.
A concerned Miley had suggested building in elements that would
ease the housing situation for younger and less wealthy residents
of the valley and limiting the terms to coincide with the renewal
of the housing element of the general plan.
Feeling that revisions of various elements would benefit the
plan, Smith and Bury voted no. Mayor Joe DeVito, Mayor Pro-Tempore
Sue Horgan and Hanstad gave their approval. "I like the
conservative approach taken by Mr. Widders and (environmental
consultant) John Jostes," said DeVito. "I've been concerned
during this time with no growth management plan."
After the vote was finished, DeVito acknowledged the hard work
put in by all and said, "I think we've set an all-time record
for discussion of a single item."
But council wasn't finished. Now zipping through the remainer
of the agenda minus Hanstad, who said she wasn't feeling well,
they unanimously approved several other items. These included
the use of $8,000 in library parcel tax funding for new books
and materials and the combining of the two regularly scheduled
November meetings into one to be held on Nov. 18.
In addition, the city manager's department redistributed a final
version of the city council goals and strategic plan. Several
additions were approved, including one that came up in discussions
about the growth management plan. Thanks to input and discussion
surrounding Ojai's air quality, council determined that it will
formulate its own study to determine how to attack the problem.
The Ojai Valley News
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