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The Region

Disney Plan Troubles Neighbors

Anaheim: Homeowners fear a third theme park is on fast track. Company and city officials say public will have plenty of opportunity to weigh in.

July 09, 2001|KIMI YOSHINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fearing that Anaheim officials will vote blank-check approval for a third, unspecified Disney theme park, homeowners will ask the City Council on Tuesday to delay planning until they know more about the project.

An environmental impact report due out this summer is already well underway. And in May, the Planning Commission gave the Walt Disney Co. the go-ahead to "initiate the application process."

So far, it's all procedural, but the homeowners believe the city is putting the cart before the horse by approving Disney requests and studying impacts without knowing any of the details.

"The tactic is not to let the public know what it's going to be, in order to restrict objections to it," said Jim Anderson, spokesman for the neighborhood group Homeowners for Maintaining their Environment. "Let's find out first what it is and then go from there."

The group has bought ads in the city's weekly newspaper and ran another one last week.

"Which Anaheim City Council members represent the voters of Anaheim?" the ad asks. "Which represent only the Disney Corp.? . . . At their scheduled meeting, the Anaheim City Council will vote to give the Disney Corp. initial approval to build a third theme park (78 acres) without knowing what it will be."

City officials believe the neighborhood group is acting prematurely, too.

"We've never seen one of these before where someone appeals a notice of preparation," said the assistant city manager, Tom Wood. "It seems illogical."

Disney officials said they have not decided what they will build, though they have discussed possibilities such as a water park, more hotels and a shopping and entertainment center.

Ed Chuchla, director of development for Walt Disney Imagineering, stressed that no decisions will be made without the public having its say.

"This initiation process is about bringing the public into the loop," Chuchla said, adding that there will be "piles of public reviews and countless public meetings" once the environmental impact report is complete and Disney has formalized its plans.

But even the idea of a third theme park has homeowners leery. They are worried mostly about parking and traffic.

"We think it's premature to think about a third park until you see the consequences of the second," Anderson said. "We don't think the infrastructure can handle any more traffic."

City residents already steer clear of Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue when heading toward the resort area, Anderson said, because those main streets already are packed with tourists heading to the expanded Anaheim Convention Center, Disneyland, California Adventure or Downtown Disney.

Disney has pledged to work closely with city officials to address traffic concerns and any other issues that arise during the process. "We've prided ourselves in always aggressively mitigating impacts any of our projects may have," Chuchla said.

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