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City Council Rejects Plan for a Hilltop Subdivision : Development: Officials say the project is too large for the 29-acre site. The plan already had been cut from 61 to 41 homes.

February 11, 1993|DENISE HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — The Glendale City Council has rejected a controversial proposal to build 41 homes in Glenmore Canyon, but it left the door open for the Orange County-based developer to submit new plans for a scaled-down project.

After an emotional, 5 1/2-hour meeting, the council voted 4 to 1 late Tuesday to deny the Homes by Polygon proposal.

The decision capped three years of fighting over the proposed subdivision, which could have lowered the ridgeline 100 feet by grading up to 600,000 cubic yards of earth from a hilltop west of the Glendale Freeway (2) at Mountain Street.

Councilman Richard E. (Dick) Jutras cast the sole vote in favor of Polygon II, the proposal to build luxury homes on the 29-acre site. He said Polygon had spent a lot of time and money preparing a design proposal that would address city, homeowner and school needs.

"I looked at what effort the developer put into it . . . I think they came up with one of the nicest developments we've had in the city," Jutras said. "People bad-mouthed Polygon I (an earlier Glendale development), but there are 400 families living there and they seem to like it just fine."

Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg voiced the loudest opposition.

"It would be a rape . . . of a magnificent ridge," she said. "I just can't see that that land is developable the way it is."

The three other council members who opposed the plan said they weighed the rights of Laguna Niguel-based Polygon to develop its property against the impact the project would have on local homeowners and College View School. The Glendale Unified School District facility enrolls severely disabled students, many of whom have respiratory problems and would be affected by the fumes and dust generated during construction, which might take up to three years.

"I have quite a few concerns about this project," Councilman Larry Zarian said. "On the other hand, I say, a person has the right to develop their property."

On Wednesday morning, Zarian added:

"If we're not going to let them develop, we should buy their property, and right now the city doesn't have the money to do that."

After the vote, Mayor Carl Raggio said he treaded carefully on the developer rights issue, concerned that Polygon might sue the city if its development was denied outright, but he decided to oppose the plan.

*

In a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the court made it easier for property owners to win compensation when governments forbid them to develop their land. The case, Lucas vs. South Carolina Coastal Council, involved a man who paid almost $1 million for two beachfront lots in 1986 and was blocked from building on them two years later by a new state law.

But Bremberg was unswayed by that concern.

"It is not my responsibility to make investments for developers . . . to assure them of no risk," she said.

Mayor Raggio and council members Zarian and Eileen Givens said they would consider a design plan that was more compatible with the surrounding environment.

"I'd like to see something different from what is here," Zarian said. "I'd like to see another development come to this project."

"There's just got to be another way," added Givens. "When I balance the scales, I come down on the side of voting 'No' tonight but not . . . on the question of (all) future development."

Officials of Polygon were in Sacramento and could not be reached for comment.

On Wednesday, Marlene Roth, a consultant for Polygon, said she did not know what the developer planned to do.

"It (filing a suit) certainly is an option," she said. "There are a lot of options. We are discussing what to do."

Members of a local homeowners group who packed the council chambers on Tuesday to voice their opposition to the project were jubilant after the vote.

"We're very, very happy," said Rob Sharkey, president of Glenmore Canyon Homeowners Assn., which represents almost 200 homeowners. "It means a lot to this neighborhood and kids in College View School. We'll probably get out some champagne this weekend, maybe the whole neighborhood will."

Polygon is no stranger to Glendale. In 1987, the developer won city approval for Polygon I, the Rancho San Rafael subdivision, which was built on 316 hillside acres on the east side of the Glendale Freeway. A massive area was carved out to make room for 544 homes.

Polygon submitted its initial design for Polygon II in 1989 and immediately drew opposition from residents, who said the 61-unit Glenmore Canyon project would increase traffic, destroy wildlife areas and create fire hazards. They also said it lacked a secondary access road, crucial during emergencies.

*

Last year, Polygon came back with a scaled-down design for 41 homes that sought to address residential concerns. But that project was rejected by the Glendale Planning Commission last month.

Planning Department staffers also recommended that the city reject the project. Bremberg said one staffer told her that a maximum of 12 homes could be built on the land.

But officials of Polygon, which has spent $6 million on the project, said they would not be able to make a profit unless they built a significantly larger number of homes.

Roth told the council on Tuesday that, even with 41 homes, Polygon would lose money, but it hoped to recoup its losses as the real estate market improves.

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