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Controversial Development Limited to 129 Homes : Burbank Approves Verdugo Mountains Project

December 17, 1987|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

The Burbank City Council has approved a controversial housing development proposed for the Verdugo Mountains, but reduced the number of homes that can be built in it.

The council acted on the proposal by developer Sherman Whitmore, who has been fighting Burbank over development in the mountains for eight years. The decision followed a marathon meeting Tuesday night attended by an overflow crowd that seemed evenly divided on the project.

Whitmore had wanted to build as many as 181 exclusive single-family houses--with a starting price of $350,000--on a 117-acre site. But the council voted 3 to 2 to limit the development to 129 homes, a reduction even from the 140 homes that had been approved by the city's planning board last month.

Whitmore refused to comment on the council action, saying he planned to hold a news conference at Burbank City Hall at noon today.

Mayor Michael R. Hastings, Vice Mayor Al F. Dossin and Councilman Robert R. Bowne voted for the reduction. Council members Mary Lou Howard and Mary Kelsey cast dissenting votes.

Howard said she recognizes that Whitmore has a right to develop his land. She said that with the many restrictions placed on it, "it is a good project." Nevertheless, she said, she felt obliged to vote against it because "my philosophy is to keep the mountains as a green belt and to provide a backdrop for the city."

400 People Attend

The council meeting, held at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, was attended by about 400 people and lasted from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Opponents of the project said it would bring traffic and noise to the area, north of Lamer Street, and ruin the look of the hillside.

Don Iwerks, who has lived on the hillside for 27 years, said traffic from the proposed development "would be a nightmare."

"It's unfair to owners of houses along Lamer Street to subject them to that added traffic," he said. "It's a dangerous situation."

But several other people, including former City Council members Larry Stamper and Leland Ayers, said the project would be an asset and would provide executive housing in Burbank.

"This project is needed for the people who are moving up," Ayers said.

The houses will cost from $350,000 to $800,000, officials said.

Whitmore has been trying to develop the site for about 3 1/2 years. Earlier, he submitted a proposal to build 212 homes. The council rejected that proposal in October.

Although Whitmore reduced his proposal this year to 181 single-family homes on the 117-acre site, city planning officials recommended that Whitmore's development not exceed 117 lots.

The site is undeveloped except for two drains and two water tanks, officials said. The land is covered with vegetation and has wildlife.

City officials had cited several "unavoidable significant adverse environmental" effects they said the 181-home development would cause. They said grading the hillside would create loud noise and bad air quality for neighbors.

Options Put Forth

Whitmore also suggested other alternatives, including a 144-lot subdivision, a 117-lot development, a 101-lot development and a 12-lot development.

The city's planning board last month approved the proposal for 144 lots to accommodate 140 homes, overriding a recommendation from city planning officials, who said that development would have adverse environmental effects. The planning board concluded that the benefits of Whitmore's project outweighed its negative aspects.

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