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Judge Rules in Favor of Vote on City's General Plan : Government: Clerk had rejected the 400 petitions collected by a citizens group because a copy of the outline was not attached to each one. Court says stipulation was unfair.

September 30, 1993|ANDREW LePAGE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

DIAMOND BAR — A Superior Court judge has ruled that the Diamond Bar city clerk wrongfully rejected petitions turned in by a citizens group calling for a referendum on the city's General Plan.

Judge Diane Wayne ruled Tuesday that Diamond Bar City Clerk Lynda Burgess incorrectly determined in August that the state Election Code required petitioners to attach a copy of the General Plan to each of their more than 400 petitions. Each petition holds 10 signatures.

Petitioners--members and supporters of a group called Diamond Bar Citizens to Protect Country Living--argued that it would have been too costly to make more than 400 copies of the voluminous General Plan.

Instead, they made a single copy available at each petition site. Everyone who signed a petition was given an opportunity to read the General Plan, petitioners said.

Wayne ruled that "to hold that (copies of the General Plan) cannot be reused for a new petition once one is completed is not economical and is tantamount to depriving (the citizens group) of their opportunity to participate in the referendum and initiative process."

"We've won, so let's get the (petition) signatures counted and get this stupid city straightened out," said Max Maxwell, the petition drive leader and head of the citizens group advancing it.

Burgess said she disagrees with Wayne's decision: "There are all kinds of arguments to show how the ruling is full of holes. It leaves the city open to litigation every time we make a decision whether a referendum petition has been properly handled, according to the Election Code."

She added that the City Council will decide whether to appeal Wayne's ruling.

Burgess said petitioners collected 4,212 signatures; 2,649 valid signatures are needed for a referendum to be held. Burgess said she will forward the petitions to the county registrar of voters for verification of signatures once she receives the final ruling from Wayne.

Last year, members of the citizens group gathered more than 4,000 signatures to force a referendum on the 4-year-old city's original General Plan, adopted last summer.

However, the council opted to exercise its right to revise the General Plan rather than allow voters to decide whether they wanted it.

Critics say the revised General Plan adopted by the City Council this summer still allows too much development in the city without taking adequate steps to alleviate traffic congestion and preserve hillsides.

Members of the City Council defend the revised plan, saying it does all that is economically practical and legally possible to limit development and preserve open space without infringing on private property rights.

City officials say they have already spent more than $500,000 to create and revise the plan.

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