How can voters make an informed decision when they don’t know what they’re voting for? That was the question behind the Planning Commission’s 6-1 vote recommending that the City Council NOT approve placing The Oaks/Shea Homes Open Space “land swap” on the ballot in November. The Council is set to decide the issue on Tuesday, July 17.
To provide some background; The Oaks property owned in principal by Joan Irvine-Smith has asked for a General Plan Amendment (“GPA”) to swap some of her land currently zoned “Open Space Recreational” with an adjacent parcel zoned for “Residential” development. Voter-approved Measure X gave San Juan voters the right to decide whether Open Space can be re-zoned for development purposes. Thus the proposed developer, Shea Homes, and Ms. Irvine-Smith are requesting that the Council approve placing this issue before the voters in November.
We support the right of property owners to develop their property within what the law allows, but the Planning Commission has recommended that more information be provided and questions be answered before moving for a GPA and re-zone vote.
Several Planning Commissioners expressed concern about this deal being rushed to the ballot before issues have been addressed. Why the rush? The only reason we can see is to save the developer from having to pay for a special election. If the issue is put on the November General Election ballot, taxpayers pick up the associated costs which include paying our City Attorney to write an analysis and ballot label. The deadline is looming to qualify for the November ballot, so the developer wants to fast-track the planning process. But why shortchange the voters to save the developer money?
Some of the concerns raised by the Planning Commission include: