Yes, we have our own little saga of vengeance and skullduggery right here in our town Tustin. It is a twisted plot by the fiendish overlords of Wicoxia to squelch the privacy and rights of Tustinia for profit and power. Yes, it pits mano y… uh, womano, neighbor against neighbor. Mostly, it is the typical story of deceit, which we would expect of the Tustin City Council but are surprised that such would happen in the community among our family and friends. This would make a great movie, of which we already provided the title.
Last month, we attended the Planning Commission meeting where an application for a conditional use permit for the Wilcox Manor was presented and voted upon. When I arrived at the council chambers, I was immediately assaulted by little old ladies attempting to plaster Wilcox stickers on me, presuming I was there to support the boys. Little did they know.
During a contentious meeting, which many of the supporters who came from outside of the city to support Wilcox, the planning commissioners began slicing and dicing the proposed CUP in an attempt to make it more palatable for the residents of the area. In truth, I doubt any of them were pleased with the application. But, they also saw the writing on the wall. After all, a denial by them would allow Lindburgh and Silent Mike to appeal directly to the city council and, since most of the sitting councilmembers have directly benefited from the use of Wilcox Manor, the approval of the CUP would be pro forma. So, this was the commission’s only opportunity to keep the residents mollified by placing reasonable restrictions on the CUP that would keep traffic and noise down. I don’t think it was lost on them that the vast majority of supporters for Wilcox came from representatives of non-profit organizations that come from outside the city.
The boys, not wishing to waste time, published a letter sent to their supporters and later published on the Wilcox Facebook page. The letter asks their supporters to, once again, show up for the city council meeting and show support for the CUP. The letter also throws down the gauntlet and trashes some of Tustin’s long time residents in the process.
Light Sabre, Smite Schlaber, We Got a Pen
In one part of the letter, the boys (they supposedly wrote it together) say, “Our opposition [is] headed by Brent Ferdig and Linda Jennings. She is the President of an organization she founded even though Tustin already has a Historical Society.” It goes on to accuse her of masterminding the wholesale intimidation of the neighborhood with people “banging on their front doors stirring the pot on this issue”. Linda and Brent are also accused of interfering with negotiations on a leased parking operation that Lindburgh claimed they had already negotiated.
It was discovered later that McPherson didn’t exactly tell the truth on his CUP application when he said the parking arrangements were in place. A letter in the Agenda Report indicates the owner was never contacted and subsequently denied the use of the lot. The boys, in their latest letter, admit they never were in negotiations for the parking and attempt to lay the blame on Ferdig and Jennings for nixing the deal. Huh.
The entire context of the letter alleges that Jennings, Ferdig and their supporters have been behind a campaign of terror and intimidation of neighbors to prevent McPherson and Demoratz from realizing their dream of an event center smack in the middle of the Old Towrn Tustin residential area. They go on to infer that vandalism at their property was caused by those evil doers (note to Linburgh – you live two blocks from a gang infested neighborhood).
From the letter:
At the end of the day – this is how democracy works – its not always pretty or nice – sometimes its evil and DIVISIVE. Twice in the last month – we have had vandalism to our property and while no proof exists as to who, we find it ironic that we have lived here for 5 years never having any problems and now after the planning commission where we received unanimous support from the planning commission to forward this the city council or final voting – that these things are occurring.
In an interview with Linda Jennings, she says the Tustin Preservation Conservancy was founded in 2004 to preserve and protect Old Town Tustin after the city demolished the Utt Juice Building. She maintains the Conservancy and the Historical Society have a good working relationship and the Conservancy even contributed to their fund to help purchase computers. She said Conservancy board members decided to postpone any action on the CUP request until they had more information.
In response to McPherson’s allegation that Jennings went on a campaign of harassment and intimidation to the charities, she says that is absolutely untrue. She feels McPherson’s initial letter asking for support from so many groups was the apparent culprit. Any group that did not return the form letter he sent them was told they were no longer welcome at Wilcox (a letter in the agenda report confirms this). Lindburgh resigned from the board of directors of the Tustin Area Council on Fine Arts when they chose not to support the request. He again blamed Jennings because she had explained what the CUP meant to the board president.
But McPherson and Demoratz have not exactly been forthcoming with their so-called supporters, many of whom did not even realize the purpose of the CUP was to allow a resdience to be turned into a money-making, for profit venture, which is what the trustees of Wilcox Manor appear to have wanted all along.
They haven’t bothered to tell their supporters they have asked for extensive modifications to the commission approved CUP to include a change to the number of events per year and removing the commission established requirement that revocation would be considered after the third infraction within one year (I thought they were trying to be good neighbors). They also ask the council to remove most of the requirements for the shuttles or to show proof the event attendees show up by shuttle. And forget about having to publish event times and dates on their website 30 days in advance as required by the commission modified permit.
One of their so-called supporters also expressed concerns over the parking issue. In a letter to the city Robert Nason, who lives on Pasadena Avenue, states that while he supports the CUP. he believes the parking has been an issue in the past with the non-paid events saying the No Event Parking signs have been “largely ignored by attendees as well as parking attendants” and parking was “greatly impacted”.
From his letter:
Res. # 4207 exhibit A states that there will be NO parking allowed on Pasadena Ave and the surrounding streets, yet there is no mention of the methods expected to rectify the situation, fees, fines, City actions, nor any mention of How to rectify the situation. Who are the residents to call when a driver that is clearly attending the event has decided to ignore the signs? Is this a police matter?
Nason also has issues with the number of events saying that by only addressing the paid events, the city leaves itself open to non-enforcement of charity events hoping that the planning commission takes into account “the total amount of events, paid or not”. Robert better watch out or he will be marked an enemy of the state.
Nason is joined by other neighbors who cite the noise and parking as major issues with the property. Some complain the parking is impacted on a regular basis and that McPherson and Demoratz have not been the good neighbor their outside supporters would paint them to be. Most of these letters outline specifically the issues they have with use of the property as an events venue, unlike their support letters which largely address the character of the two owners.
McPherson also attacked another area resident, claiming she doesn’t live where she said she does and saying she “spewed vitriol” at the planning commission meeting:
Now they have enjoined a woman named Teri O’toole, who owns a four plex on Myrtle (across the street from Mr Ferdig. Who, by the way Mr. Ferdig lives more than 600 feet from our property. No one on the street, some who have lived there for many years knows her or has ever seen her until she spewed vitriol at the planning commission meeting. The address – I found for her is in Lemon Heights – miles away from us.
O’Toole, who wrote a letter of opposition to the city, is a resident owner of the property who has been away on personal business. The trouble with Google is, it doesn’t know one O’Toole from another and there could very well be two O’Tooles in the vicinity (I feel a song in the making). At the very least, I see some paranoia.
The biggest fib they have told the community, however, is that they would no longer allow the residence to be opened to the public during events. Among their many change requests, the boys have asked they be allowed to eventually open the residence to allow visitors. It is not a far stretch to believe they will eventually be holding dinners inside the residence for “selected guests” making this a full-fledge events center and no longer a residence. This is supported by information directly from the Agenda Report which states that the Wilcox Manor has been featured on OC Special Events Venues, a now defunct venue website, and Anders Catering website which shows the Wilcox Manor in all its glory. Apparently, Lary Anders is the new business manager for Wilcox as he lists his own phone number as a contact for the Manor.
Permit? We don’t need no stinkin’ permit….
In a last ditch effort to call supporters together, Lindburgh and Silent Mike laughably claim they don’t really need to address the issue of parking until after the CUP is granted. Saying they are just trying to be good neighbors, they claim that they can address the parking isssue after the CUP has been granted, that they just have to follow normal community standards as anyone would hosting private events at their home. The only trouble with that, Lindburgh, is most people don’t host an event for 200 people at a time.
You could say we have a vested interest in this. The Wilcox Manor is in our neighborhood. And, while we don’t have to deal with the parking issues, we do have a concern over changing an Old Town icon into a money making business venue. That changes the character of the historic manor significantly as if they wished to open a bed and breakfast, conference center or religious retreat. The big difference would be the parking and noise issues. The issue itself is, do we want to allow business to creep into our Old Town area and what will be the significance of that initial act. So far, business has encroached only as far as the Stevenson House and the industrial/business area south of 6th Street. Will we allow it to creep in from all sides?
In any case, Lindburgh and Silent Mike should not throw stones. Their original letter posted on their Facebook page is full of the vitriol and hatred for their neighbors that they claims is being spewed at them. They have made unsubstantiated claims they have been harassed and victimized (we have a request in for police records on the vandalism) and accused others of dirty work in the realm. It is clear they see this as an us or them issue. Perhaps it is. And, while I don’t think for a minute the Tustin City Council won’t approve the CUP, hopefully they will take into account the lives of Old Town residents for once and see fit to keep the Tustin Planning Commission recommendations intact.