TEMPLE CITY — The first special election in the city's 25-year history--triggered by a squabble over a road--is shaping up as a battle over the future of residential development here.
Voters on Tuesday will decide whether the city should allow a developer to build 18 condominium units on a 2.2-acre site on the northeast corner of Lower Azusa Road and Golden West Avenue.
A "yes" would approve a zoning designation of Residential Planned Development and permit the development. A "no" vote would retain the R-1 zoning and block the condominium project.
All five members of the City Council favor a "yes" vote on the referendum, saying the project is consistent with the city's general plan, which calls for medium-density residential development along a 300-foot band on the north side of Lower Azusa.
Council Approved Rezoning
The council approved the rezoning last October, but residents opposed to the condominium project launched an initiative campaign to place the issue on the ballot. More than 1,800 people signed the initiative petition.
Opponents contend that the condominiums will destroy the character of the neighborhood, which is made up mostly of single-family dwellings built in the 1940s. And they say that rezoning the property represents "zone creep" and would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten single-family neighborhoods throughout this community of 30,000 people.
"Condos versus houses, that's what the issue comes down to," said Patricia Bogle , spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens of Temple City, a homeowners group opposing the development.
City officials say they have no intention of altering basic zoning patterns in the city, 80% of which is zoned R-1.
'A Good Buffer'
"We feel it (the condominium development) is a good buffer between the commercial development on Lower Azusa and (the houses on) Golden West," said Mayor Mary Lou Swain. "It's not the same as putting up a large apartment or condo development. We've stuck to the general plan adopted many years ago. This isn't anything new. We haven't allowed a whole lot of condominiums. I don't feel this will be a mandate on condominiums."
The controversy actually came to a boil over the issue of a road.
Homeowners on Golden West Avenue didn't like the condominium project proposed by Fairhaven Development Corp. of Arcadia, but figured they could not stop it; so they proposed placing a cul de sac where the street wuld meet Lower Azusa Road to separate their houses from the condominiums and keep traffic levels low, Bogle said. Golden West now ends at a dirt lot about 350 feet north of Lower Azusa, the site where Fairhaven Development Corp. wants to build its condominiums. When the City Council refused to create a cul de sac on the street, the homeowners began their initiative.
Both sides have waged an active campaign and each has accused the other of trying to mislead voters.
Tried to Confuse Voters
Bogle claims that a pro-development group called the Committee for Fair Community Development tried to confuse voters with a mailer stating "vote yes for single-family homes," even though the referendum would increase density on the property in question.
Swain says that argument is "a matter of semantics," adding that the Fairhaven condominiums are single-family units. She also maintains that Bogle and her followers are trying to paint the proposed development as a high-density project when in fact the 18 units are all detached, single-family houses that would sit on smaller lots and share a common driveway but would meet many of the same requirements as regular houses.
Swain speculated that the election will be close, especially if there is a low turnout among the city's 16,462 registered voters, because those opposed to the project are the ones most likely to vote. She said she could not predict the turnout because city has never before had a special election.