by Timothy Rutt
Following about a total hour and a half of public comments and discussion, where the council members sometimes exchanged tart words among themselves, the council turned down a motion by councilman Jamie Bissner to impose a six month, townwide moratorium on commercial development while new community standards are being drawn up. Despite Bissner adding the proviso that the moratorium could be superceded by the Land Use Committee or Town Council as they desire, the measure went down to defeat.
The council then passed a follow-up motion by councilmember Diane Marcussen to specifically NOT request a moratorium from the county Board of Supervisors.
Councilmembers opposed to the moratorium pointed out that it would be ineffective, anyway -- community standards are currently being updated by a town council committee, and are probably two years away from being put into action. Any development until then would have to be governed by the current community standards.
They also pointed out that, in practical fact, the moratorium would only be imposed on development of the empty lot at Lake Avenue and Calaveras Street. That lot is owned by the same company that owns the Walmart Neighborhood Market lot on Lincoln Avenue. Local anti-Walmart activistis have been pushing for the moratorium, fearing that the lot will be developed into another Neighborhood Market.
The lot’s developer, The Charles Company, has been getting county approvals for a building plan for the lot, which appears from the plans to be a large store that could serve as a big box retailer or grocery store.
Marcussen said that she made her motion in part because there were sufficient controls in the current community standards and there were new “green” ordinances any building would have to follow. The issue is not about the building, Marcussen said, but who would would occupy it.
An attorney for the developers told the council that as the building plan fully complies with the current community standards, the only legal way to delay it would be to enact an emergency interim ordinance to protect public safety, health or welfare. The building plan does not justify such an action, he said.
Both opponents and proponents of the moratorium called for members of the audience to stand up or raise their hands to declare their support or opposition to the moratorium. It seemed to be fairly even, but the crowd was salted with members of Neighbors Building a Better Altadena, who oppose the Walmart, and Walmart associates who were there for the announcement of the opening of their Lincoln Avenue store.
What do you think of the failure of the moratorium? Let us know in the comments.