Lately, a “Develop – and Carry a Big (Legal) Stick” mentality appears to have emerged as the strategy of choice as developers – and some homeowners – deal with obstreperous small-town governments and citizen groups opposed to the development in question.
The threat of a lawsuit, a scary prospect for cities and towns unable to afford a prolonged legal skirmish, is being increasingly brandished by developers and some homeowners intent on bringing their vision of the future to The Numbers.
Where “We’ll see you in court” may have been the parting verbal shot fired during a contentious planning department or city council hearing, the legalistic broadside of “We’re seeking any and all relief” has recently been fired at civic groups, government agencies and local governments who express opposition to proposed construction.
Lawyers for City Ventures, LLC, a development company in Newport Beach, earlier this month raised the possibility of legal action after encountering resistance to their plans to build on a bare patch of ground adjacent to Station 41 on Moraga Way. Their “Big Stick” was directed at MOFD after the district raised concerns about building a residential housing development next to its fire station and training center.
Moraga Center Town Homes, as the project is known, had met with initial approval from town planners and design review commissioners and appeared headed for groundbreaking – until the project’s story poles went up and residents began to question the project’s scale and impact.
A citizen’s group filed a formal appeal citing their concerns with the project – namely its height and mass, what the group believes are inadequate setbacks from the street, potential traffic impact on the surrounding area, and what they say is negative impact on the Moraga Way Scenic Corridor.
The Moraga-Orinda Fire District also questioned the wisdom of putting homes next to a training center known for its night drills, hissing hose and hydraulic lines, and other noisy offshoots of firefighter training. In a 2008 letter from the district to the town, MOFD stated flatly: “The station’s operation and noise may not be compatible with the proposed residential use.”
All parties are expected for a final Town Council hearing on the Moraga Center Town Homes appeal, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Joaquin Moraga Middle School auditorium.
We’ll see what happens, and how big a stick the prospect of a lawsuit really is, on Wednesday.