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Group Threatens Another Petition : Environment: Preservationists have pledged to fight the new General Plan. But officials say current proposal further restricts development and protects open space.


DIAMOND BAR — Preservationists vow to fight the new General Plan adopted this week by bringing the matter to a citywide petition once again.

The City Council, which adopted the plan Tuesday night, said it differs significantly from the old plan by further restricting development and protecting open space. But leaders of Diamond Bar Citizens to Protect Country Living, which got the first General Plan annulled through a petition drive, insist that the council has failed to make significant changes to the old plan.

"They haven't heard the end of this," said Don Schad, a council critic working with the citizens' group, after the council's 4-1 vote.

Councilman Gary Werner, who supported the new General Plan but wanted to give the staff another week to complete changes, was opposed to adoption at Tuesday night's special meeting.

Several members of the citizens' group also said they wanted more time to consider last-minute changes to the General Plan, which has been under revision since the council voted in March to annul the old plan.

The city, which incorporated in 1989, adopted its first General Plan a year ago. Critics immediately decried it as leaning too heavily toward development and failing to adequately safeguard such areas as Sandstone Canyon and Tonner Canyon, one of Los Angeles County's last large undeveloped areas.

The critics, many of whom live near Sandstone Canyon and want to protect the area, gathered more than 4,000 signatures during their referendum drive to let voters decide whether they wanted to accept the plan as adopted or force the council to draw up a new plan. The city challenged many of those signatures and said the group had failed to collect the minimum number required to force a referendum. However, in March a judge ruled in favor of the petitioners and ordered the city to either proceed with the referendum or make substantial changes to the General Plan. The city opted to make the changes.

Now the preservationists are threatening to go the same route.

"This was the first city in the state with a referendum on its original General Plan, and now we're going to have another (referendum)," said Max Maxwell, a leader of the citizens' group. "We tried to work with the council and they wouldn't listen to our concerns."

Not true, countered Mayor Gary G. Miller. He said that among numerous changes that make the new plan more environmentally sensitive is that it would allow fewer homes to be built and fewer acres to be developed.

"The new General Plan is page after page of environmental concern," Miller said, adding that the city held nine public hearings and five public workshops to gather input from citizens.

City officials said that, conceivably, the old General Plan would have allowed development of about 6,300 housing units on 1,900 acres of vacant land in the city, while the revised plan allows no more than 1,900 new units on less than 700 acres of developable land.

Also, the new General Plan notes the importance of preserving environmentally sensitive Tonner Canyon.

Not all of the roughly 40 citizens who attended the meeting were opposed to the new General Plan. Several said that, while the plan may not make everyone involved in the revision process happy, it is a good compromise.

"We've done our best," Miller said of revisions to the old General Plan. "Much of their (critics') input is in this new document. Hopefully, we can get back to acting like a city again . . . We can start saving a tremendous amount of money."

Some members of the citizens' group want to start a recall drive to oust Miller and Mayor Pro Tem Phyllis Papen, contending that they have been unwilling to seriously consider--and publicly discuss--many of the changes to the General Plan that citizens have proposed in past months. The seats of Miller and Papen are the only ones on the five-member council that are not up for election in November.

Council members say they have considered all reasonable requests for changes to the original General Plan.

But they dismissed, for instance, Maxwell's proposal to place a five-year moratorium on residential and commercial construction in order to alleviate traffic congestion in the city. Council members said the idea would further depress the city's economy and simply prolong the issue of how the city should deal with traffic congestion.

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