WHITTIER — After listening to more than two hours of sometimes heated, sometimes pleading public testimony, the City Council once again extended its moratorium on building strip malls and apartments.
The purpose of the moratorium is to give city officials time to develop new, higher-quality construction standards. The length of the extension was the product of a compromise Tuesday night between the slow-growth and pro-development forces on the council.
The moratorium on strip malls--defined as commercial developments of one acre or less--will remain in force until Oct. 15. The freeze on apartment construction will last until Nov. 15.
New members Helen Rahder and Bob Henderson, who had pushed for the original May 8 building halt, said the moratorium should last until year's end, as the city's staff recommended. Council members Robert Woehrmann and Myron Claxton said such a time line created an unnecessary hardship on builders and property owners.
Council members listened patiently to a barrage of public comment from at least two dozen business representatives and local residents. Few spoke directly against the moratorium and many favored it, but most speakers were individuals who wanted to be exempted from the building delay.
Architect David Harper said when the moratorium took effect, the only thing holding up his project at 6532 Greenleaf Ave. was color selection. His client, Ruben Yerkatyan, wants to add a second floor to an existing coffee shop.
Harper said the financing is now in jeopardy. He urged the council "to be fair and fair-minded to allow this project to proceed."
Philip Singerman said his proposed Norms Restaurant would add 75 jobs to Whittier and is not the type of development the city wants to discourage.
"We feel like the dolphins," he said, "we've been caught in the (tuna) net."
"I don't believe Norms and Blockbuster Video are going to go bankrupt if they have to wait for our new standards," Jeanette McKenna of Whittier responded.
Council reaction was predictably divided. "I think it's criminal we've waited so long to let these people develop their properties," Claxton said.
"If you open Pandora's box," Henderson said, "they'll all have a right to come through."