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City Council Shelves Plans for Special Azusa Ballot

January 08, 1987|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

AZUSA — The City Council has shelved plans for a special election on two controversial issues, the rezoning of the Azusa Greens Country Club and the direct election of the mayor.

Johnny E. Johnson, owner of the country club, and opponents of his plan to develop the property for housing and industry submitted rival measures for the ballot, but the council on Monday refused to call an election.

Instead, the council suggested that anyone wanting to put measures on the ballot should circulate petitions and obtain the necessary number of voter signatures.

Reversed Decision

The council also reversed last month's decision to hold an election to ask voters to give up their right to elect a mayor directly and allow council members to fill the position by rotating the office among themselves.

Mayor Eugene Moses and Councilwoman Jennie Avila asked the council to reconsider the election proposal, arguing that voters made clear their preference for direct election of the mayor in 1974 when they established the current system by a 4-1 majority.

Councilman Lucio Cruz, who had voted last month to submit the issue to voters, changed his position Monday, saying he objected to the cost of holding a special election, estimated by the city clerk at $13,000 to $16,000.

Councilman Bruce Latta said that ending direct election of the mayor might reduce rivalry between the mayor and council members and ease political tension.

Last month, in reaction to what councilmen called dictatorial behavior by Moses, the council adopted a resolution curbing the mayor's authority to direct the city staff, bestow awards and make appointments. Moses accused the council of trying to cripple him politically.

Dual Measures

Latta said he never had intended for the city to call a special election on the mayoral issue alone. He said he thought it could be placed on the ballot with the golf course rezoning proposal.

Latta abstained on the motion to drop the mayoral election, with Moses, Avila and Cruz voting for the motion and Councilman James Cook against.

Both Latta and Cruz said the mayoral measure might still reach voters but only as part of another election. The next municipal election is scheduled in April, 1988.

City Clerk Adolph Solis said initiatives on the golf course could qualify for the 1988 municipal election if circulators could obtain signatures within a 180-day period from 10% of the city's 13,147 registered voters. If more than 15% of the voters sign petitions, the City Council would be required to call a special election immediately.

Start Process Again

Charles M. Wilkes, chairman of the Action Committee to Save Azusa Greens, said his group, which filed a proposed initiative with the city clerk in October but never circulated petitions, will start the process again.

Wilkes said the group will seek a ballot measure to maintain the existing zoning on the golf course, blocking Johnson's proposal to replace the course with homes, apartments and an industrial park.

Johnson asked the council to submit to voters two ordinances, one to rezone his property, the other offering the city the option of issuing up to $26 million in bonds to buy the land.

Johnson said he is not certain what his next step will be. His alternatives include circulating petitions to put the ordinances on the ballot as initiative measures or pursuing zone changes through the Planning Commission and City Council.

Johnson has proposed the construction of 655 single-family homes and 701 apartments and the development of a 20-acre industrial park. The plan requires rezoning of the 106 acres occupied by the golf course.

Appraised at $19 Million

The course and nine adjoining acres that Johnson has an option to buy were valued at $19 million in an appraisal made last month by Landauer Associates Inc. of Santa Ana. The appraisal was based on the assumption that the land would be rezoned.

Christopher Sutton, attorney for the Action Committee to Save Azusa Greens, told the council this week that the appraisal is "complete and utter nonsense."

Estimating the property's value by assuming that it will be rezoned for homes and industrial use is simply speculation, Sutton said, and one might as well presume the property to be the site of the Arco Towers or a landing field for the space shuttle. With such speculation, he said, any value can be placed on property.

Sutton and residents who live near the golf course and want it preserved have said they believe that the property is worth $2 million to $3 million. At that price, they say, it might be feasible for the city to acquire the property and maintain the course.

Johnson said he intends to close the course in 1988 or sooner.

'Hoax or Spoof'

One ordinance proposed for the ballot by Johnson, which would have directed the council to initiate proceedings to issue $26 million in bonds to buy the property, declared, in part:

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