By a 3-2 vote that capped a yearlong debate over a proposed hillside development, the Glendale City Council early Wednesday rejected a plan to build 25 luxury houses in a scenic canyon off Sleepy Hollow Place.
In voting down the project, council members Ginger Bremberg, Carl Raggio and Larry Zarian said they want to see fewer houses and less environmental damage on the the 30-acre site.
"I think we could revise this," said Bremberg. "I think we could preserve this ridgeline."
The three council members voted not to approve the environmental impact report prepared for developer Ken Doty's 25-house proposal. They said it did not adequately explore less damaging construction plans.
Councilmen Jerold Milner and Richard Jutras sided with Doty, arguing that the environmental review was sufficient and that the 25-house plan followed city rules for hillside construction.
The vote, taken just after midnight at the end of a 4 1/2-hour hearing, was a victory for the Glenoaks Canyon Homeowners Assn., which opposed the project. More than 100 residents who attended the meeting applauded the vote.
During hearings earlier this year before two city advisory panels and the council, the association had urged the council to block development on the Doty site, arguing that a subdivision would destroy the ridgeline and oak trees and contribute to traffic problems and school crowding.
"Of course we're happy that it went our way," association President Dave Weaver said after the vote. "We thought we made our case, and the majority of the council agreed with us. The ball is now in Mr. Doty's court."
Doty declined to discuss the
future of his project, saying he had not had time to evaluate the council's decision.
But City Atty. Scott H. Howard told council members that the developer has several options:
* He can submit a new subdivision plan that addresses the concerns raised by city officials.
* He can ask a judge to overturn the council's decision, arguing that the city did not have proper legal grounds to reject the project.
* He can seek damages in a lawsuit, saying the council took away the value of his land by blocking his plan to develop it.
If Doty decides to submit a new building plan, further complication exists.
Last March, the council imposed an 18-month ban on hillside development while the city develops new building rules covering grading, ridgeline preservation and other issues. Doty's 25-house plan was exempted from that ban because its environmental review was already under way.
But city officials said the moratorium would stop Doty from filing a new Sleepy Hollow plan until the revised rules are adopted and the hillside building ban is lifted.
Howard told Glendale officials they could grant a second exemption to Doty, but council members appeared to be divided on the issue. Milner asked the city staff to prepare such an exemption, but Zarian said he would not approve it until the developer presents a revised plan more compatible with the area.
Over the past year, Doty has argued that his 25-house plan is the only possible balanced project that would not require a massive amount of dirt to be trucked in or out of the canyon--a prospect opposed by nearby residents.
To show that Doty had not considered less damaging alternatives, the homeowners association last month showed the council its own plan for a 12-house subdivision on Doty's site, requiring no destruction of the ridgeline or oak trees.
At the hearing that began Tuesday night, Doty's attorney, John M. Gantus, said there were significant flaws in the homeowners' plan and that it would require more than 20,000 cubic yards of earth to be imported. He argued that Doty's original 25-house plan was environmentally sensitive.
But architect Dick Kemp, who lives near the site, unveiled a revised 12-house plan in which, he said, he had corrected the flaws cited by Gantus, including the earthmoving problem. Homeowner association leaders said they had prepared the smaller subdivision plan only to show that Doty had other options. But the group remained on record as opposing any development on the site.
City staff members urged the council to accept or reject only Doty's 25-house proposal because that was the subject of his subdivision application.