Saturday, December 7, 2013

More Developments in the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center Land Scandal

A way of life now under assault
Mod: There is an excellent letter up on the Save The Monastery website written by Sierra Madre resident Tim Thomas. I am reposting it here. Apparently the groundswell of community opposition to a proposed 40 unit tightly packed housing project on property currently under monastery control has been noted by the developer, and the two parties involved are now trying to speed up the deal. This is being done in hopes that the developer can then take control of the land before growing opposition to this LULU (Locally Unwanted Land Use) gets even more organized. All leading to the perception that the principals in this predatory land deal are now resorting to deceptive tactics in their dealings with an increasingly angry community of residents and area believers. Here is Mr. Thomas's letter:

Open Letter to the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center
December 6, 2013
We understand that your Board of Directors is proposing to sell off a significant portion of Mater Dolorosa to a developer for purposes of a large 40 home housing project. Despite the fact that this decision impacts nearby residents, Catholics and non-Catholics who have enjoyed the peace and serenity Mater Dolorosa provides, open space, preservation and wildlife advocates as well as the wider Sierra Madre community, there has been no input from these various constituencies. In fact, we have been unable to find the names of the Board of Directors who will be making a decision that will impact so many.

We understand that the land you intend to sell has a monetary value. However, it also has an intangible value that is priceless to many people. While the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center is private property, it is also a significant cultural and physical landmark in the City of Sierra Madre and is so designated in Sierra Madre's General Plan.

As such, we feel that Mater Dolorosa has an obligation to discuss its plans before the property is sold to an outside developer who perhaps has a different view of the significance of this land. By getting the input from this community, perhaps alternative options can be explored other than another housing project in Sierra Madre. That alternative can result in a win-win solution.

This can only be done in a spirit of good communication and transparency. Unfortunately that has not been the case thus far. The concern is that if the Mountain Views News hadn't broken the story about the housing project on November 16th, when exactly did Mater Dolorosa intend to reveal their plans?

Only after the story broke, did Mater Dolorosa send a letter dated November 19th to nearby residents. That letter uses words like: "The Passionists have begun exploring....." or "Our planning process is in its preliminary stages. Any comment or speculation about how this parcel may be used would be premature" or finally "As plans begin to take shape, we promise to keep you informed and to listen to your input."

Yet in a meeting with the spokesperson for Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center on December 4th, we are told that signing a contract with the developer is "imminent" and that the "the train is leaving the station". It is difficult to reconcile the letter of Nov. 19th with the words from your spokesperson on December 4th - a mere fifteen days later.  How is that consistent with keeping your "… promise to keep you informed and listen to your input."

In light of the above, we would urge you to delay the decision to sign a contract with the developer and explore all the options with the people who would be affected by this decision.

Thank you.

Tim Thomas - Sierra Madre Resident
Coalition to Save Mater Dolorosa Monastery and Stop the Housing Project

Mod: A form letter distributed to parishioners at St. Rita, forwarded here to The Tattler by a concerned individual, backs up Mr. Thomas's claims. Dated Dec. 2nd, this letter was sent by Mater Dolorosa to St. Rita's parishioners informing them about a sale in its "preliminary stages." It is very similar to the Nov. 19th letter Mater Dolorosa sent to neighboring residents of the monastery. What gives this the appearance of deception is that it was sent to St. Rita only two days before a monastery spokesperson said the deal with the developer is "imminent" and that the "train is leaving the station." Meaning this form letter was more about calming the herd than being a frank and honest communication with the faithful at St. Rita. It is not a very pretty picture.

Dear St. Rita Parishioners
December 2, 2013
You may have read recently in the Mountain Views News a story regarding the possible development of a portion of our property.  We had hoped to communicate with you before any news story appeared but the newspaper moved more quickly than we had anticipated.  Still, because we Passionists have had such close ties to St. Rita's Parish for so many years, we feel you deserve some word directly from us.

The Passionists of Holy Cross Province with the Board of Directors of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center have been exploring the sale of part of our property for development.  The open field located immediately north of our entrance gates on Sunnyside Avenue is the property we are considering.

We undertook our planning process because, as good stewards of our resources, we have to plan ahead in order to care for our aging Passionist priests and brothers, and to strengthen our various ministries in the United States and elsewhere.

This planning process is in its preliminary stages.  Any comment or speculation about how this property may be used would be premature.  As plans begin to take shape, we will keep you informed and look forward to your input.

We can assure you that the quiet setting of Mater Dolorosa and its retreat ministry will in no way be diminished by the sale of this piece of property.  Our retreat center is healthy and our ministry strong and vibrant.  As these plans mature, we Passionists hope that we can count on your ongoing support.

We will likely see change coming to a portion of our property.  What remains unchanged, however, are our strong ties of friendship with St. Rita Parish, ties we have had for 90 years.

Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P.
Retreat Director

Mod: Like many similar area land deals (One Carter being an example), this one is starting to take on some decidedly grubby aspects.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com                                         

61 comments:

  1. All buildings should be torn down, all trees pulled, and the ground salted, as a testament to the destruction caused by the Catholic Church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Didn't that already happen at One Carter?

      Delete
    2. 6:30 - I think what you are described here is exactly the opposite of what people are hoping for here. Have you tried Barstow?

      Delete
    3. 6:30 - Why do you hate all Catholics?

      Delete
    4. Like it or not there are many people who are negatively affected by and influenced by recent scandals in the Catholic Church. The initial crimes were bad enough but the cover-up worse.It is not surprising that these events affect people's attitude to the Catholic Church .That is particularly so when as the Moderator commented, the "information" provided indicates another 'grubby' deal by the Church. Honesty and transparency would have avoided that -in both cases.

      Delete
    5. For the record, I did not in any way state what you are insinuating here when you said, "That is particularly so when as the Moderator commented, the "information" provided indicates another 'grubby' deal by the Church." What I did say is that this is now giving the appearance of being another grubby land deal, period. With One Carter being an example. One Carter having never been Church property.

      Delete
    6. Correction accepted because the insinuation was not intended

      Delete
  2. This is no scandal just a buisness deal

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to see the ethically challenged community is checking in.

      Delete
  3. I'm sorry but I didn't notice the name of the developer?
    Could it be City Ventures or Avalon Bay?

    I suggest someone file a legal challenge in court to ask for a stay on all activity connected with this piece of property.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is hard to believe that the Passionist Fathers want to turn their retreat into somebody's back yard.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I will not respond to the bigot. I will instead respond to my catholic brothers at the retreat center.

    At least one Sunday a month my wife, three young children and I walked the stations, prayed at the window of the sacrament, and rested in the shade of the trees. We have not done so since you blocked access.

    That was no doubt necessary to contest easement claims that would stand in the way of development. It was, however, inconsistent with the purpose of the church, which exists to tear down walls to Christ- not erect them.

    So, I must tell you I was not moved by your letter to St. rita and its profession of friendship. I urge as all of my neighbors and my fellow parishoners to oppose the retreat's development project and instead urge the retreat to again open the gates to once again make Christ accessible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    2. I'm having a low tolerance for trolls day. Must be the rain.

      Delete
    3. 8:32 am. Perhaps if you and your family had supported the mission and ministry of the Passionists in a tangible manner they would not be forced to sell this property in order to remain viable.

      Delete
    4. How much have you given them, 9:40?

      Delete
    5. Let me guess what 9:55 has donated. Zilch.

      Delete
    6. Yep, it is true. Not a cent. I don't see why I should have to bribe irresponsible individuals to not destroy my community. I'd much prefer to give the money to a lawyer and do something far more effective with it. Stay tuned, 10:07!

      Delete
    7. 9:55 and 10:11. Why don't you and a bunch of friends raise enough money to buy the land and then you can put it into conservancy and it will remain as is in perpetuity.

      Delete
    8. Sure do wish Right Wing Rick or his lovely wife would run for City Council :)

      Delete
  6. Just to state the obvious, it should be clear to everyone that Sierra Madre City Hall has no problem whatsoever with high density development at the monastery. In their mad dash for cash the development impact fees they'd get has put little stars in their eyes. Just like it has with the water rate increase and the UUT extension at the highest utility tax rates in California. Our birthright is being sold off piece by piece to fund pensions and benefit plans. We are being devoured by our city government.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Problem statement: This religious, tax-exempt group needs revenue to support the physical infrastructure and the pension funds of the org, just like a lot of cities that are going bankrupt. The standard answer to these problems is sale of property for development. That's been going on since the beginnings of private ownership of land in Europe hundreds of years ago. All these properties end up subdividing themselves out of existence and then finally dumping the pile on the public. It just reaches the point of no return in our current fiscal system, even with a tax exemption, which is the only thing that has kept the property as open space up until now. With the revenue stream of churches going bust, expect to see a lot more of this.

    A strategy to maintain properties as open space would involve capturing State/Federal grants and developing better revenue structures for the existing buildings. Perhaps even selling the undeveloped property to a land trust, which would require an activist participation by a trust of this kind, as well as some kind of revenue stream for the maintenance of the grounds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you explain why the property has to be sold now? You state that the monastery revenue stream has gone bust. Do you have any facts or figures that would explain the supposed parlous finances of the Passionist Fathers? There is a lot of air in your statement, 10:28. Much of it I suspect is hot.

      Delete
  8. I still do not see why you would call it a Scandal

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seems pretty scandalous to me. It is very sad to see religious men employing these kinds of deceptive tactics.

      Delete
    2. What is deceptive they want to sell somebody wants to buy just like when you bought your house and land

      Delete
    3. Get some rest. And please stay away from sharp objects.

      Delete
    4. I don't know what that means , I just asked a question maybe you should try to answer instead of being insulting.

      Delete
    5. I didn't see a question mark. You sure it was a question? Can you rephrase it? And if you don't know what it means, how do you know it was insulting? On my block that is considered to be a very high compliment.

      Delete
  9. It must be hard being Tattlerites, losing at every turn has got to be a (expletive deleted), let's hope for a short escrow and level pads.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that once Cranky Nancy and Fibber Moran are laughed out of office next April things will change. It will be nice having a City Council that isn't occupied by a bunch of corrupt political machine puppets.

      Delete
    2. Yes, and lets hope that we get someone of integrity who has a mind of their own instead of listening to Elaine for every issue. Nancy especially can only parrot what our City Manager says instead of doing some homework on her own. But in the meantime, hoping the citizens of Sierra Madre can come up with a way to save the precious property from the hands of developers.

      Delete
    3. I'm sorry, but we need a new city manager. Hopefully one that actually lives here. Elaine just doesn't care about what the residents of this town want. We pay a lot of money to this city, and we deserve much better.

      Delete
    4. I would doubt we would ever get acity manager that lives here , that is not how it works a small city gets a person on the way up till they can get a job in a bigger city and then a bigger city

      Delete
    5. I don't agree. Put an ad for that job in the LA Times and you'd get a line 3 blocks long. It pays over $150,000 a year for crikeys sake.

      Delete
    6. I will answer this for the third time in as many weeks , The hookup was never going too be temporary the use of water from the hookup is hoped to be temporary if the water table goes back up !! and No the monastary plan has nothing to do with the hookup it is the turn around in the realestate market and the improving economy

      Delete
    7. So where were they going to get the water to supply 40 new homes? Our wells are dry you know.

      Delete
    8. 2:28 that is what I said there will be a line but they will not be from here and they will not stay when they get a offer of $200,000 from some where else

      Delete
    9. Our wells aren't dry. That's bs, just like wmd's were...

      Delete
    10. SGVMWD supplies us with Water of Mass Destruction.

      Delete
  10. VOTE NO

    AS TO WATER & SEWER RATE INCREASES!!!!!

    JUST THINK...

    That's had to be the reason why "Elaine Aguliar: had to increase the main water line to a larger diameter!

    Another deceptive move by city staff...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The timing of the SGVMWD hook up and the announcement of plans to push forward development at the monastery is no coincidence.

      Delete
    2. Huh. OK, so then why is the city telling us the SGVMWD hook up is a temporary emergency measure?

      Delete
    3. Because they're lying?

      Delete
  11. Can someone remind me tahe percentage of vote for/against when the Eminent Domain issue was on the ballot in Sierra Madre?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 2,245 voted to ban it, 372 to keep it.

      Delete
  12. Maybe Bell and Sierra Madre have more in common than inflated UUTs.Time to call the AG!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Los Angeles County is also known as the FBI Full Employment Act.

      Delete
    2. Oh for heavens sakes, Bell and Sierra Madre have nothing in common. For one thing, our City Clerk is the most honest and has the most integrity than any town. Nothing would get signed if it wasn't on the up and up. Not only that, there are citizens behind the scenes who check the budget figures, treasury figures and audits. No, say what you will, the city might be greedy, but not dishonest.

      Delete
    3. Sierra Madre has the highest utility taxes in California. Bell is #2.

      Delete
    4. That has nothing to do with dishonesty.

      Delete
    5. Sure it does. Explain Sierra Madre's nearly $20 million in water bond debt.

      Delete
  13. The agenda report for next Tuesday's council meeting is available at the library. Take a look at Item 1c. The city wants to renew their contract with Community Media of the Foothills for TEN YEARS!

    How many times have we witnessed "technical" problems with the airing of the council meetings?? And now the city wants to sign a 10 year contract with this company? Outrageous!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Is there anything in the city not to complaine about please! this is about the best city to live in it has some problems but this is crazy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to "complaine" about the poor spelling skills of some residents.

      Delete
    2. I was on the committee for smtv3 and there is no other media company that can touch in cost what Community Media does. They are honest, active, and does several other cities. The equipment that keeps failing is not theirs, it belongs to the City. Pat Alcorn

      Delete
  15. I went downtown on a lottery and Looney Views News run, and am I disappointed! I was reading Susan's somewhat unhinged article about the seniors and their unisex bathroom troubles (are they mad!), and then the article said I needed to go to page 19 to read the rest. The paper only has 18 pages.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow! A little (expletive deleted) issue, no one knows what are (expletive deleted), made up by (expletive deleted), (expletive deleted), your blog (expletive deleted), it exists (expletive deleted), I hope you (expletive deleted), 'cuz you're (expletive deleted), most (expletive deleted).

    ReplyDelete
  17. Since when do health issues warrant selling off a huge tract of land? What if there was no land to sell? How about just pay your bills, for a concept? Land is not some thing so you can grab a buck; it's life, itself ! What happens when we've crowded ourselves to oblivion and we end up like the poverty stricken on the streets of India; can't happen ? Think. The Wards had to sell their open space on Mountain Trail to pay a burdensome tax bill. Now, recently, our last near-to-downtown open space on the south side of E. Sierra Madre Bl. is being developed for the money. Where are we headed, when does it stop ? Yes, southern California is a developer's haven. Is that all we can give Sierra Madre ? This is just another heartless example of opportunistic greed. As always, we'll deserve what we get.
    Unlike the 1 Carter property where we could have gotten together to buy it from Mr. Ellis, maybe the people of Sierra Madre could get together a medical fund for the Fathers as a way to help save our land; remember the summer picnics on their hillside ?
    We're all going to pass-on someday. The land is perpetual and needs to be treated as such.
    Nothing said here is anything anybody doesn't already know. How we act upon it demonstrates who we are. That's another thing we can't get away from no matter what religion.

    ReplyDelete

The Tattler is a moderated blog. Annoying delays when posting comments can happen. Thank you for your patience and understanding.