GLENDORA — The city that touts itself as the Pride of the Foothills is preparing a building moratorium on hillside development and studying proposals to increase sales and property taxes to fund acquisitions of land for conservation.
The City Council voted 4 to 1 at a special meeting Wednesday to draft a six-month building freeze after hearing a presentation by the Hillside Conservancy Advisory Committee.
The panel's report, which also calls for a citywide tree preservation ordinance, characterizes the foothills as "a priceless contribution to the visible natural profile that distinguishes Glendora from other Southern California cities."
Stressing the urgency of quick action, the committee is seeking $3,000 in seed money from the city to create a private, nonprofit land conservancy that would acquire hillside parcels and protect the wilderness.
The panel, appointed by Mayor Leonard Martyns in June, prefaced its recommendations Wednesday with slides of spotted owls, red-tailed hawks and deer grazing beneath avocado trees in the undeveloped foothills.
The conservancy committee proposes to raise between $11.5 million and $14 million through a combination of increased park and recreation fees over five years, a three-year, quarter-cent sales tax increase, and a three-year property tax override of 20 cents per $100 assessed valuation. On a home valued at $200,000, the additional tax would be $400. The 1988-89 assessed property value of the entire city is about $1.5 billion.
The tax increases, which would go toward purchasing key foothill parcels, must be approved by a two-thirds majority of city voters.
Councilman Larry Glenn, who cast the only dissenting vote, supported most of the recommendations but opposed the moratorium as "morally wrong" because of property-rights concerns.
Committee Co-Chairman Bill Robinett conceded that the moratorium, proposed to give the city time to tighten hillside building rules, was the panel's "most agonizing decision" because of those concerns.
Business owners will probably not be happy either, said Tim Ferguson, a committee member who is also president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber board will not discuss the proposed sales tax increase until its Nov. 30 meeting. But Don Boehn, the chamber's executive vice president, said an increase would probably hurt local merchants. The amount may appear small, he said, but "it will have a tremendous psychological effect on customers."
The council will discuss the moratorium and hear a report on the feasibility of the other proposals from City Manager Art Cook at its Nov. 28 meeting.
Robinett said the creation of a conservancy is a key part of the package. "This is a new game in town," he said, noting that if Glendora approves such an agency, it will be only the second city in the San Gabriel Valley to create one. The Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy was incorporated in September.
According to a June report by Planning and Redevelopment Director Stan Wong, there are 2,112 acres of mostly vacant privately owned properties in the San Gabriel foothills and bordering South Hills Park.
That 191-acre park north of the Foothill Freeway was purchased by the city through a special tax imposed in the early 1970s.
"Perhaps the ultimate method of preserving hillside properties is public acquisition," Wong wrote. He estimated that the total land value of the hillside parcels was $112 million.
During the moratorium, the committee would like the city to toughen existing guidelines for building in rural hillside residential zones.
Among the suggestions for tightening building rules:
* Change the maximum density from one dwelling unit per 40,000 square feet to one dwelling unit per 43,560 square feet (one acre).
* Require the retention of major natural features such as significant ridges and rock outcroppings.
* Expand the power of the city to regulate use of materials and colors that will be visible from outside the property.
* Require a scale model of the development.
Two projects proposing a total of 51 single-family homes in the northeast corner of Glendora would be affected by the moratorium.
Developer Everett Hughes, who has been working with the city for two years on a 26-lot subdivision proposal and expects approval in January, protested that Glendora already has a "very adequate and restrictive hillside ordinance."
In terms of residential development, Glendora is built to 95% of its capacity, Wong said. "The hillsides are the only thing that's left." Within the past three years the city has approved five development projects in the foothills with a total of 67 new homes.
PROPOSALSThe Hillside Conservancy Advisory Committee recommends:
Hillside building moratorium of up to six months.
Citywide tree preservation ordinance.
Creation of a private, nonprofit land conservancy.
A three-year property tax override of 20 cents per $100 assessed valuation to fund land acquisitions.
A three-year, 1/4-cent sales tax increase to fund acquisitions.
Increased park and recreation fees.
Tightening of building guidelines in rural hillside residential zones.