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ANAHEIM : Petition Planned to Force Vote on Arena

January 03, 1990|MARK LANDSBAUM

An opponent of the city's proposed $85-million indoor sports arena said Tuesday that he will try to halt the project by circulating a petition to force the issue onto the ballot.

However, Mayor Fred Hunter, a chief proponent of the 20,000-seat facility, said he is unconcerned with the threatened referendum, which comes on the heels of the City Council's rezoning of property last week for the arena northeast of Anaheim Stadium.

"I don't see it (the referendum) getting off the ground at all," Hunter said. "I don't think that's really the will of the voters in this city. Anaheim is the type of city that has recreational activities. We're a tourist capital."

But attorney Robert Coldren, who represents the owner of the Orange Tree mobile home park next to the arena site, said a petition signed by 5% or 10% of Anaheim registered voters--depending on the turnout in the last election--can force the council to place the matter on the ballot at the next regular election, to call a special election, or to rescind the rezoning.

Coldren said he and his client, Campanula Properties Inc., are still considering a lawsuit to challenge the council's actions. "We believe this matter should be put to a vote of the people," said Coldren, who maintains that the city rushed approval of the arena, giving inadequate consideration to increased traffic and other environmental issues.

"We will circulate a petition indicating the matter should be put up to a vote," he said. A referendum would have the effect of staying the rezoning until the issue can be decided at the polls, Coldren said.

The council has also adopted a controversial environmental report on the arena and authorized the purchase of three acres for the project on Douglass Road, north of Katella Avenue.

Ground breaking is expected in early February, following a mandatory 30-day waiting period to allow legal challenges to the environmental report. City officials hope to open the arena and attract a professional basketball team or hockey team by the fall of 1991.

Coldren said that in the city's "mad rush" for an arena, officials committed several procedural mistakes that leave the council's approval open to legal challenge. The Los Angeles Rams and California Angels, who play their home games a block from the proposed arena, have expressed similar concerns with the city's environmental impact report.

Coldren and other arena critics contend that the city sped approval of the arena because of competition from a nearly identical facility proposed in Santa Ana.

But Hunter defends the approval process. He also said Coldren has misjudged public sentiment.

A referendum "is a very difficult thing to do," said Hunter, who maintains that there is "overwhelming support" for the facility.

"This is not a slow-growth issue," Hunter said. "The attorney is way off base on this one. He doesn't know Anaheim."

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