A referendum petition signed by more than 7,000 city residents who want to block a proposed 216-unit apartment complex was validated Tuesday by the Orange County registrar of voters.
The victory for residents, however, may be short-lived. The city staff believes the petition has legal problems and is recommending that the City Council reject it at its meeting tonight.
"We're disappointed that they feel the need to split hairs and abrogate the will of 7,000 people," said Dale Tyler, one of the leaders of the residents' group, Citizens for Responsible Development. "We are looking into how we can respond to the concerns they raise."
The referendum would reverse an October decision by the council to rezone a 20-acre parcel near Crown Valley Parkway and Los Altos from commercial to residential use. The project is planned by developer Mark-Taylor Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz.
State law requires that a city's general plan--a blueprint for development in a municipality--show the same use for a parcel of land as its zoning laws.
The referendum only asks for a zoning change and, if passed, would create a conflict between the general plan and zoning ordinances, City Manager Dan Joseph said.
The residents "basically didn't do their homework," he said. Because the 30-day deadline to appeal the project has passed, the city will not accept another petition, Joseph said.
The residents' group worked for three weeks to gather the 5,291 signatures needed to qualify the referendum. They turned in 7,167 signatures to the city clerk's office Nov. 27.
In addition, the residents are working to defeat plans for a 380-unit apartment complex located next to the Mark-Taylor Inc. property. The larger complex, owned by the Mission Viejo Co., also will be before the City Council tonight.