Mission Viejo councilman Ury speaks with a forked tongue

While we have just concluded a lengthy, but successful, recall election in Mission Viejo, there is another election on the horizon for our city. I refer to the Right to Vote Initiative that will appear on the June 2010 ballot. This ballot Measure was crafted after a similar initiative in Yorba Linda. The objective is to protect our city from high density growth “by requiring voter ratification of major zoning changes.”

Councilman Frank Ury speaks with a forked tongue. As the author of the Argument Against Measure XX he includes a reference to the potential change of the Casta Del Sol golf course into housing by stating “Casta Del Sol Glf course is in an existing FLOOD CONTROL CHANNEL. Under state law, it CAN NEVER be developed with housing. EVER!”

And as Paul Harvey would say and now for the rest of the story I take us to the Mission Viejo Dispatch account where they have posted the following rebuttal:

Right-To-Vote: Ledesma Exposes Ury

by MissionViejoDispatch.com on March 2, 2010

   Last month Councilman Frank Ury volunteered to write the ballot argument against the Mission Viejo Right-To-Vote Initiative. The Initiative calls for voter review of threatened high-density changes to the City’s famous master plan. At last night’s council meeting John Paul Ledesma exposed Ury’s adversarial written statement as blatantly false.   Ury based his argument on the premise that Casta del Sol Golf Course could not be developed because it is located in a flood control plain: “Under State law, it CAN NEVER be developed with housing. EVER! The authors of this Initiative knew this and purposefully misled voters into signing the petition,” Ury wrote.  

Ledesma pointed out that significant portions of the Golf Course can be developed, just as Sunrise Assisted Living, Inc. proposed when it paid a deposit to buy the entire Course from American Golf Corporation. In at least one public meeting and a mailer, Sunrise described using elevated areas for housing and giving any unused land to the City to maintain as park land or open space.  

Councilman  Ledesma also reminded Ury the City rezoned the old K-Mart location for about 250 homes on Los Alisos near the 241 tollroad. That property sits in a flood plain below and adjacent to the dam for the Oso Creek Reservoir. The parcel is approved by the City for development under an application from UDR, a large publicly traded real estate investment company. The primary flood flow would run directly through the parking lot and community room for the as-yet unbuilt condominum complex.   Ury was unable to claim inadvertent error, because he was well aware of the initial Sunrise concept; and he voted in favor of the K-Mart rezoning on September 17, 2005. 

Frank’s misrepresentation was made more egregious by his accompanying claim that proponents of the Right-To-Vote petition falsely warned that Casta Golf Course might be closed or truncated if housing was built.  Factually that was, and still could be, a very real legal and political possibility if three members of the City Council decide to help a potential corporate buyer by voting to amend the general plan and rezone the property, as happened with the K-Mart site. The RTV proposal could help preserve Casta Golf Course, but it was designed to protect against a broader range of potential high-density impacts.   At last month’s council meeting City Attorney Bill Curley gave the initiative a favorable legal review, noting it included improvements over the Yorba Linda model.

After Curley’s comments, Ury questioned whether any council member would even be interested in writing an opposing ballot argument. Later he tried to postpone the issue, but Trish Kelley roped him into writing the argument.  Cathy Schlicht tried to bait Kelley into joining Ury’s ballot statement, but Kelley cautiously declined. 

 It appears Ury and Kelley  will oppose voter oversight, while Ledesma and Schlicht will support resident participation when the Initiative goes before voters in June.   Ury’s ballot statement also tries to blame grassroots petition signers for the cost of the upcoming election, but the voters’ petition sent the issue first to the Council, which could have adopted it without the need for an election. The council majority, including Ury and Kelley, failed to approve it thereby causing the $140,000 election cost.   On February 15 Christine Thalman, CEO of the OC Building Industry Association, told the City Council her organization agreed with the City Attorney’s assessment, and would not become involved in the Mission Viejo Right-To-Vote Amendment.  Ury appeared to be surprised and upset, perhaps because he was counting on substantial outside financing during the campaign to help grind his ax against grassroots involvement. 

 Following is an unofficial statement in favor of the Right-To-Vote Amendment:

SAVE MISSION VIEJO FROM HIGH-DENSITY BLIGHT. High-density growth can mean adverse impacts to traffic, noise, schools, recreation, aesthetics, environment, utilities, infrastructure, public facilities and city services.
The Right-To-Vote Amendment provides Mission Viejo the opportunity to join
affluent towns like Newport Beach and Yorba Linda that adopted initiatives to save their communities from the blight of unwanted high-density growth – by requiring voter ratification of major zoning changes.
PRESERVE OUR FAMOUS MASTER PLAN. The Right-To-Vote Initiative allows
residents to protect our nationally famous Master Plan. This is necessary because major zoning changes are susceptible to the lobbying wealth and influence of outside corporations and developers, as witnessed in other once-promising OC cities.
PREVENT ELECTION COSTS. Our City Council will still exclusively approve or
reject regular land use changes or affordable housing actions pre-empted by state law. Major changes need voter ratification, but the cost of such regular or special elections WILL NOT BE PAID BY TAXPAYERS. It will be paid by the companies or entities proposing zoning changes.
PROTECT HOMEOWNERS RIGHTS. The initiative maintains the current standards
for single family home permits, renovations, additions and other changes not involving major changes to zoning or to existing building standards.
PROTECT BUSINESS RIGHTS. The initiative maintains the current standards for
renovations, additions and other changes to businesses not involving major changes to zoning or to existing building standards.
KEEP OUR RECREATION & OPEN SPACE. Voters would need to approve
conversion or development of open spaces, or the rezoning of recreation land unless being changed to open space.
required to develop recreational land with recreational facilities, such as sports parks or dog parks.
PROTECT FAMILY INVESTMENTS. The Right-To-Vote Amendment may be
the BEST way for residents to protect their home investments in Mission Viejo.

About Larry Gilbert