This afternoon, Elysse James from the Orange County Register reported that Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler ruled the Board of Supervisors used illegal spot zoning practices for a proposed senior living community in North Tustin. Since 2009, the North Tustin communities, which are not part of the city, have been battling the Catholic Diocese of Orange over a senior residential community proposed for a seven and a half acre parcel of land located on Newport Avenue, North of 17th St.Andler, who rules on complex civil case, is located in Santa Ana Main Courthouse.
The diocese spokesman, Carol McDermott called the ruling disappointing. She also said the Diocese would be evaluating their legal options and there may be an appeal in the works. The County spokesman, Howard Sutter, echoed the same possibility of an appeal by the county. From the Register Story:
County spokesman Howard Sutter said the county is assessing the impact of the decision. Staff members are waiting for a full copy of the judge’s decision before presenting the information to the Board of Supervisors. The board will consider the county’s legal options, Sutter said.
One option the county has is to appeal the ruling.
The Foothills Communities Association is a coalition of the communities in the area also known as Tustin Foothills. In a blog entry on their website, they congratulated the community leaders in being “tenacious” about the issue and not giving up.
The North Tustin Community is to be congratulated on being tenacious on this case and not giving up. FCA and the No-Rezoning Team appreciates the encouragement and the financial support of our community that has gotten us to this point.
The FCA entry goes on to say that the issue is not necessarily over and that an appeal could be in the works.
We agree with the FCA that this is a great win. While the idea of building a much needed senior living complex is a noble one, the area was specifically zoned for single-family residence. The Diocese of Orange had originally planned to build a church on the site. However, citing needs of the Catholic community in Orange County, they decided to build the Springs at Bethsaida which would largely incorporate apartment type living for seniors. The FCA asked the county to stand by the 1982 zoning agreement in place that would have prohibited such a facility. Their reasons centered mainly around the impact that the facility would have on existing infrastructure including parking and traffic with vehicles entering and exiting onto busy Newport Avenue. No one argued that the project was not a worthy one, just not one that fit into the foothill area. Even county staff must have recognized this as they also sought, as an alternative, a land swap with land on the Tustin MCAS that would have served the Diocese just as well.
Property rights are an issue everywhere, nowadays, and it seems that homeowners must fight each and every day to maintain their individual property rights against an ever increasing governmental force bent on enacting laws that intrude on every citizen’s life. Changing or “spot Zoning” for the benefit of one entity, in this case the Diocese, would set a precedent for others who would also like to bring in commercial types of business and facilities that are not in keeping with the original intent of the zoning. Many residents have moved to the area specifically because it was residential in nature and they do not want commercial properties in the vicinity. In an area where the threat of encroachment by business and other commercial facilities is ever immenent, it is refreshing to see a community come together in force, as the FCA has, to combat the autocracy that branded our local government.
It is interesting to note that the Foothills Communities Association, while joining forces for a common purpose, has made a statement in the community. They like to say they give as well as receive. You may have seen their booth last year at the Chili Cookoff. They also hold town hall meetings whose attendance I could only dream of for our own Tustin City Council Meetings. And, it seems, now they are a force to be reckoned with.
The residents of the foothill communities can congratulate themselves for the win today. It is an important one as appeals courts are loath to overturn lower courts without good reason. We haven’t seen the written ruling from the judge yet, but we expect it to be specific and succinct. Let’s hope the County does not go off fighting windmills in a situation that should never have come to this point to begin with. We should know within the next 60 days.