Gavel passed at council
By Kelly Feser Eells
City Hall was decked in good
cheer Tuesday night, the City Council voting together on item
Outgoing Mayor Joe DeVito set the tone, acknowledging the recent
passing of two beloved Ojai residents: James Loebl and Dr. John
Bee. He then acknowledged his good fortune.
"This is the fourth opportunity I've had to serve as mayor,"
DeVito said, "and it's been an honor, pleasure and privilege."
He joked about having to take another seat on the dais - "Your
ego, when you walk away from this chair, has to be able to handle
it" - then thanked his colleagues and wife, Mary, "who's
been such a strong supporter" over the years.
His colleagues, in turn, thanked DeVito, praising him for his
leadership abilities and integrity.
DeVito's successor, Sue Horgan, was moved to tears as she thanked
him "for being my mentor and friend. I don't know why I'm
crying," she smiled; "I'm still going to see you."
The new mayor gave an emotionally charged acceptance speech,
during which she pledged to "provide positive leadership
... to focus on the good first, then the items on which we differ.
"One change I requesting tonight is that the Council sit
together," a move, she explained, that would present a more
Horgan also announced the opening "of a city council office,
and I want to urge our citizens to take advantage of that. I've
established Thursday morning hours, and will also be available
Following a brief recess, the council returned to their new seats
and, opened a public hearing on the (revised) Zoning Ordinance,
Number 771, which allows for 10 feet between structures in areas
zoned village mixed use. Though the public has been sharply divided
on the issue in the past, no one came forward to speak on the
item, and the council, following much discussion, voted unanimously
to adopt the ordinance.
The council also approved an early design of a city park and
"park 'n ride facility" at Highway 150 and 33 - the
"We're very excited about this project," said Public
Works Director Doug Breeze, noting that, though "we've been
kicking around the idea since 1995," the project would not
be possible without the Ojai Rotary Club West's participation.
City Manager Dan Singer concurred: "The park idea was initiated
years ago, but it wasn't until the Rotary Club approached the
city that it took off. This is an excellent project that will
beautify the entryway to the city."
Landscape architect Tom Bostrom designed the project, which includes
a three-foot rock wall that provides for "screening"
without blocking the view.
The estimated cost is approximately $400,000, offset by the Rotary
Club's donation of $40,000 in materials and $60,000 in labor;
and an the Rotary Club West's donation of public art - designed
by sculptor Ted Galt - valued at $50,000.
Singer also reported that the city has two Congestion Mitigation
and Air Quality grants totaling $350,000, which more than ensures
there will be adequate funding for the project, expected to be
completed by the end of 2004.
In other business, local attorney Nancy Soares Pierson was appointed
to the Planning Commission, filling the vacancy left by Inez
Arce's departure; Lauren Sims was appointed to the Parks and
Recreations Commission as its new youth representative; and former
mayor Steve Olsen became the new "adult" representative
on the Ojai Valley Youth Commission, joined by new commissioner
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