Monday, April 28, 2014

Mater Dolorosa: The Monastery Empire Strikes Back

Before ...
(Mod: On April 25th I, along with a lot of other people, received the following email from the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa and Stop the Housing Project. It details the current unfortunate tactics being employed by the individuals attempting to develop that property. This despite the offer that has been put forward by those in our community who wish to preserve that land. While the kind of deception being employed by the developer is not atypical, it is sad when you consider who is being used to deliver it. Perhaps it is time to take the sacred out of this and just call it for what it is, a naked attempt to turn monastery property into personal profit despite the overwhelming wishes of the community. Here is the Coalition email.)

Dear Supporters:

The Coalition's efforts in preserving the open space at the Monastery was in the news again.  You will find an article in the Sierra Madre Weekly that came out on Thursday entitled "10 Million Offer Not Enough for Passionist Land".  It is available at a number of locations in Sierra Madre including the post office.  However, the on-line link can be found here.

As some of you know, three members of our Steering Committee met on two occasions with representatives from Mater Dolorosa including the Chairman of the Board of Directors Cameron Thornton who is quoted in the recent Star News article as well as the Sierra Madre Weekly article.  A proposal was made to purchase the property for 10 million dollars if the citizens of Sierra Madre would approve a parcel tax as the residents of Monrovia did recently to preserve some open space in that community.  There were also discussions about possibly raising additional monies in other ways if necessary by state or federal grants or donations.  The actual proposal made to them is attached to this email and will also be posted on our website on Monday at www.stopmonasteryhousingproject.com .

While we have a great deal of respect for Cameron Thornton, he seems to be mistaken about a certain aspect of our meeting.  We concluded that our offer was turned down because the 10-15 million was simply not enough money. However, Mr. Thornton has now repeated the assertion in the Star News as well as now in the Sierra Madre Weekly that Coalition representatives themselves concluded that it was not possible to pass a parcel tax that would generate 10 million dollars.

In other words, he states that we felt that our very own proposal was not achievable.  To the contrary, the assessment we conveyed to them was that a parcel tax of under $100 would be probable, over $200 would be improbable and anywhere between that would be challenging but certainly possible.  If Mater Dolorosa did not think a $155 to $165 parcel tax was achievable, that is certainly their prerogative, but its simply incorrect that Coalition representatives came to that same conclusion.
   
Despite Mater Dolorosa's decision, the Coalition intends to continue their efforts to preserve the open space that has managed to remain intact since 1926.

Steering Committee
Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa and Stop the Housing Project

… and after.
(Mod: We have posted here The Sierra Madre Weekly article mentioned above. The spokesperson for this land grab, Cameron Thornton, can be seen misrepresenting both the intentions and the offer made by the Coalition.)

$10 Million offer not enough for Passionist land - With a $10 million offer recently rejected by the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center to prevent the sale and development of some of the center’s open space in northern Sierra Madre, a spokesman for the passionists said it was for good reason.

Cameron Thornton, who works with the Passionists, said while the land in question is valued around at least $20 million – and as high as $40 million – he is not sure the group the Coalition to Save Mater Dolorosa could have come through with its plan.

And with the recent failure of Measure UUT – the user utility tax extension – in this month’s municipal election, Thornton said he felt Sierra Madre voters weren’t going to approve the coalition’s proposal.

“They thought they could make a $10 million parcel tax work,” Thornton said. “What they found out was $10 million would cost a minimum of $155 to $165 per parcel over a 30-year time frame. I think they understood once they projected it and did the math that it just wasn’t viable.”

Thornton said the Passionists have for years tried to save the land themselves so they wouldn’t have to sell it.

“We tried every way you can imagine to come up with the money needed,” he said. “We for seven or so years have been looking at a number of possibilities. We recognize the sacredness of that land.” He added the group even tried a grass-roots effort, but to no avail.

“We’ve reached out for 18 to 24 months to Catholic donors and other groups to raise the money and we couldn’t do it,” he said. “That leads us to where we are today.” Thornton said any developer that is chosen will need to be able to work with the neighbors and residents of Sierra Madre.

“What we’re looking for in a development partner is someone who’s sensitive to the needs of the neighbors and someone who is willing to reach out as much as possible,” he said. “We expect the developer to be a good neighbor that fits in.”

The reason land needs to be sold is to pay for the medical care of the aging Passionists, Thornton said.

“We’re taking care of our family,” he said. “The Passionists are our family. We’re doing what any other family would do. We’re making sure we have sufficient funds to take care of them.”

Matt Bryant of the coalition said he was hoping no land would be developed and the grounds of the center would remain in the status quo.

“We wanted to preserve the open space,” Bryant said. “We tried to create a win-win solution. Unfortunately, we failed. We made them a substantial proposal. We thought it was a good offer. We could have gone up to $15 million, perhaps. But they have gone in the direction of a developer.”

Bryant added now the group has to change its gears and monitor the development to make sure it doesn’t encroach on the existing community.

“The concern that we have now is you have to maximize what goes on up there, the size of the houses, the number of houses,” he said. “You’re talking about one of the largest housing projects Sierra Madre has seen in decades. We’re very concerned about it.”

(Mod: The at times unctuous Cameron Thornton appears to be a sort of "wealth management planner" with an office in Burbank. Apparently his shtick is bringing a schmaltzy perceived high mindedness to what is basically a service offered to panicky middle-agers fearful of ever being able to successfully retire. He even quotes Mahatma Gandhi on his website, a legendary historical figure not ordinarily associated with wealth management planning. You can check out Cam "in situ" by clicking here. I've also posted some of this below.)

To help people achieve what matters most in their lives, Cameron M. Thornton founded Cameron Thornton Associates in 1982 - a Registered Investment Advisory firm in California.

Cam’s aim through his professional work is to help people keep the promises that they have made to themselves.  He guides them through a process which allows them to bridge what they own, and what they believe.  He does this by combining The Wealth Development System™, his unique wealth growth and preservation solution, with the family-first planning philosophy of The Navigator Heritage Process™.

Cam’s focus on helping people’s dreams to thrive from one generation to the next was the inspiration for partnering with co-author Rod Zeeb to write the novel, What Matters.

Cam was named to Bloomberg Wealth Manager’s Top Wealth Manager List when Cameron Thornton Associates was a SEC Registered Investment Advisory firm from 2001 through 2008.

Today Cam provides heritage planning services through Navigator Legacy Partners, LLC, of which he is a founding partner.

Cam was educated at the University of Southern California, where he received a BA in Psychology in 1976.  After college he spent four years as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy.  He went on to earn his Master of Business Administration from the University of La Verne School of Business and Global Studies in 1983 as well as the Certified Financial Planner™ designation in 1986.

Cam gives of his "time, talent, and treasure" to the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, currently serving as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.  He has a history of community service including serving as Vice Chairman of the St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation, Chairman of the St. Joseph Medical Center Planned Giving Department, Chairman of the City of Burbank Police Commission, Chairman of the City of Burbank Planning Board, Chairman of the Burbank Chapter of the American Red Cross and Scoutmaster of Troop 209 of Boy Scouts of America.

(Mod: I wonder if Cam is now advising his clients to invest in a certain Sierra Madre development project. You just never know about these things. There is also the matter of what this development is going to be called. Are they considering The Holy Land?)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

104 comments:

  1. The Mater Dolorosa Board of Directors has been stacked with development-oriented people for some time now. The question is are these people assisting with the sale of the land for purely altruistic reasons or do they have some financial interest themselves in the sale of this property?

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    1. Why does Cameron Thorton have to keep saying that the Coaition's offer to raise 10 million or more was not viable and that the Coalition themselves thought it was not viable? He's coming perilously close to saying that if the 10 million dollar figure was viable, it would have been acceptable to them. I think they are taking this approach because otherwise they would appear to be very greedy for rejecting the 10 million only because the offer was too low.

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    2. has someone paid for or conducted a (statistically significant) survey of folks in Sierra Madre to see if a parcel tax is even viable? If yes, what range of assessment are people willing to pay? if no, then at this point no number amount represents anything viable.

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    3. Maybe they should give the Coalition a chance to conduct a survey of some kind. The problem is how much money should be spent on research if Mater Dolorosa is not even interested in giving the citizens a chance.

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    4. I bet alot of donors to Mater Dolorosa expected that this property would remain the way it is when they donated money up there. Some of these folks may get might angry when they hear the property will be sold for a quick buck.

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    5. Everyone can decide for themselves what is viable or not. It would be nice to have that property be used by the residents the way it used to be before Mater Dolorosa put the high fence and gates. After all, how many cities get to expand their park land.

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    6. Somebody on the city council should try to get involved and see if they city could buy it and use it to expand Bailey Park which is right next door.

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    7. I notice that Cameron Thorton doesn't live in Sierra Madre. I'd like to know how many people on the current Board of Directors at Mater Dolorosa actually live in the city. Yet, they are going to make major decisions affecting every resident of Sierra Madre - water rationing, congestion, turning Sunnyside into a highway and then carving out another entry/exit point at Grove/Carter or Crestvale, displacing wildlife, blocking views of neighbors....the list can go on and on. Its time for Sierra Madre residents to look out for their own interests.

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    8. I bet none of that bunch live in Sierra Madre. That's one reason why they don't care.

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    9. This will be a long and drawn out battle. It will be years before they are able to put a shovel in the ground if at all.

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    10. If its anything like some of the past fights, this developer will be eating into his profit margin pretty quickly.

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    11. I'd like to know if any member of the Board of Directors has anything to personally gain from the sale of this land.

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    12. Where do we find out the names of the other members of the Board of Directors and what their professional background is. If anybody knows, please post a comment.

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  2. I think this whole Monastery sale story was first broken by the Mountain Views News back in November of 2013. The Star News, the Sierra Madre Weekly and others seems to be diligently covering what has to be considered a major story. I wonder what happened to Susan on this one.

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    1. Rather than report the news, Susan maybe trying to find some angle to support the developers.

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    2. I heard Susan lives on Sunnyside so maybe she'll come down on the right side of this issue. Unless she enjoys noisy trucks driving up Sunnyside for the next five years.

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    3. Give Susan some credit, the Mountain Views News broke the story. It might still be a secret if not for her.

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    4. Susan doesn't want to see a housing project at Mater Dolorosa any more than the rest of us.

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  3. The Passionists are selling off land around the country as fast as they can. They ruined their retreat center in Houston when they sold off half the land and surrounded it with Mansions. They don't seem to care anymore. This present bunch wants to get what they can for themselves and not worry about the future of the faith.

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    1. Once they sell off the land, its gone for good. Maybe if they held onto it, someone would fugure out a good use for it.

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    2. How are they going to handle the throngs of people and cars who come there for Good Friday to walk the Stations of the Cross? Is that event going to go the way of their annual Fiesta?

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    3. Stations of the cross will never be what it used to be.

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  4. Not only can a city suffer sometimes irreversible consequences from the actions of one bad city council. Likewise, it takes only one bad Board of Directors to ruin Mater Dolorosa forever.

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    1. The current Board is lot looking out for the best interest of Mater Dolorosa. We shouldn't expect them to care about the community or neighbors. This will be a public relations disaster for the Monastery. Donors must be up in arms over this.

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    2. When that whole area turns into a construction project for five years, they sure will have a tough time with the annual Stations of the Cross not to mention trying to have a retreat. It will be hard to meditate in the Garden of Seven Sorrows with a jackhammer blasting away.

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    3. During the construction, the neighbors will have a field day reporting the bad air quality to the authorities. And don't think that won't be an issue. There is alot of grading to do at that site in preparation for this housing project.

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    4. They have not been honest about where all this money is going. They've talked vaguely about "aging priests" and "retirements" and furthering their "mission". When the truth comes out, people will be shocked about the real reason for the sale of the land.

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    5. The fact that a purportedly religious organization is making decisions based on greed almost makes me want to become an atheist.

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  5. From what I read and heard, the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa made a sincere effort to try to preserve the open space.They never received a counter proposal from Mater Dolorosa or willingness to give the Coalition more time to come up with another plan. It was only a rejection.

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    1. You are 100% correct. Also the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa felt the parcel tax was very do-able after talking to many members of the community. Cam and Co. were only giving lip service to the coalition. Donations can be made to the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa. See their website.

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    2. They are going to need all the money they can get to beat back the developer on such a large project.

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  6. It seems like the Passionists are trying to pull on our heartstrings when they talk about this money going toward retirement costs for aging priests. What happened to their 5 million dollar fundraising campaign for that very purpose that achieved nearly all or most of that goal. Why did people donate to that if it wasn't enough? Now it is off their website. If they needed more money, why not have a higher goal.

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  7. How do they get past the water shortage?

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    1. The MWD connection for orange water.

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  8. Things are changing in Sierra Madre. You can't stop progress. Get over it. Sierra Madre will soon be indistinguishable from Arcadia.

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    1. If the residents rise up, we can preserve this little town.

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  9. Cameron Thorton is probably going to help them invest their "wealth" and get paid a king's ransom to do that. Its all about the almighty dollar for these folks.

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  10. The Coalition sent the actual proposal that was made to Mater Dolorosa as an attachment on their recent email to supporters. Its a pretty impressive document. Their email also says that it will be posted on their website today for those who are interested but not on their email list.

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  11. The whole lot of them should be ashamed of themselves. Why sell the land now and displace all the animals as well as cause so much grief for so many people. That can't be a good thing.

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  12. It seems awfully selfish of the "retiring priests" to have all this carnage over thier own retirements. There must be a better way.

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    1. I love how the haters keep calling it "retirement plan" instead of the medical care funding that the funds are intended to go to.

      You want to complain about rich retirement plans, CalPERS would be a much better target.

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    2. What kind of retirements do they want to have anyway. Maybe the Priests have seen what some of the public employees get and they want slice of the pie too.

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  13. I ain't buying the we're doing it for the 'aging priests" and theirr "retirements". They have been less than candid in the past which is why all this was kept secret for so long. I'd like to know the real reason the property now has to be sold.

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  14. It wil be named for what it destroyed, most housing development are.

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  15. It is private property they can sell it when they want , just like you can sell your house

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    1. Its the last large open space in Sierra Madre. Shouldn't they feel an obligation to the community that was good neighbors to them for so many years, to explore some other ideas other than a housing project that most people do not seem to want.

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    2. I wonder how they acquired the land in the first place. Were there any deed restriction put on the land at that time?

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    3. How do you know 9:29? You seem pretty emphatic about it.

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    4. General Plan states that if the land is not zoned institutional, it should be R-1.

      I bet a bunch of the "no-build" people are the same ones who complain that institutions here in town (that is, churches) don't pay property taxes. Hmm, I sense a disconnect here.

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    5. 10:11 Please state the Chapter and objective that says that. It is not stated in the 1996 or the updated draft version

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    6. Read it again.

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    7. The Planning Commission and the City Council are going to be playing the key role in whether this project goes forward or not. They will have to re-zone the property. That can be quite difficult in light of all the adverse impacts such a project will have on Sierra Madre.

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  16. Why not put everything on hold and give people a chance to see if their is a better alternative than a housing project?

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    1. They don't care about the residents of Sierra Madre - why should they give anybody more time. They are going to do whatever is in their selfish interest to do. End of Story.

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  17. Is there any mechanism to have a recall effort to remove all the members of the current Board of Directors at Mater Dolorosa?

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    1. Catholics themselves have to decide about that. I wonder what they are thinking over at St. Rita's about all of this.

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  18. Cameron Thornton must be having alot of sleepless nights about whether they are making the right decision here. He needs an angel to appear to him and tell him "Don't do it - Keep the land. That's your mission for the ages and the legacy you want."

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    1. Maybe he should ask Gandhi.

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    2. Call 1-800 Mahatma.

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    3. The Passionists and Thonrtons God is the almighty dollar they have no belief in angels or religion.

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  19. If the land does get sold off to a developer, there should be a plaque of some kind giving credit to the visionaries who made the decision.

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    1. Great idea. All dog owners would want to make that a special stop when out walking Fido.

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  20. yes! exactly! just like you can sell your soul

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  21. Watch the McMansions go in up there. Then. lets have all the residents of Sierra Madre ration their water and/or pay higher water bills so that Mater Dolorosa and the Developer can win the lottery.

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    1. The project will be in the hands of our Planning Commission. We need to pressure them to have very large lots. If the developer gets only large lots the project will not pencil out and the sale will not got through.

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    2. Remember, 2014 is the 10th anniversary of one of the worst City Councils ever having approved housing development at One Carter. 10 years without a single house being built. I hope the Mater Dolorosa people take that into account and realize that resident support in Sierra Madre is a very important thing.

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    3. Except this isn't property at the top of town. Give it a rest, please.

      Although, I know, that would collide with your hyperbole.

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    4. Do I sense bitterness, 10:13?

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    5. Are the facts colliding with your end of the world prediction? I hope I didn't offend you.

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    6. Funny. I sense paid disruptor.

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    7. Or truth teller.

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    8. Large lots, large prices, large profit...small lots, lots of houses, large volume, large profits..The numbers are worked both ways.

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  22. Who is the body that makes the zoning change decision? The city council or the planning commission? It starts there. If the zoning change is voted down then the city will have a law suit on their hands. Or will they? What has happened to othr cities in this regard. At least there won't be the scam that Maranantha pulled: the religious persons prayer act or whatever it was called. This is for retirement, not prayer and certainly not piety.

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  23. Beware of holding to fewer and large lots, the end result is often biger houses. Maybe it should be the smallest lots possible in the zoning for R-1 with the required covered and off street. You would get puny little house and perhaps attract a different, Sierra Madre-focused buyer. Just dreaming. I do like the Small House book, No 1 and 2 that came out a few years ago. Lots less consumption of resources per house but yes maybe the same consumption of resources for the whole.
    And what's with the misstatement about one project that has broken ground at 1 Carter (according to a city source). I don't think that is true.

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  24. Beware of holding to fewer and large lots, the end result is often biger houses. Maybe it should be the smallest lots possible in the zoning for R-1 with the required covered and off street. You would get puny little house and perhaps attract a different, Sierra Madre-focused buyer. Just dreaming. I do like the Small House book, No 1 and 2 that came out a few years ago. Lots less consumption of resources per house but yes maybe the same consumption of resources for the whole.
    And what's with the misstatement about one project that has broken ground at 1 Carter (according to a city source). I don't think that is true.

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    1. The house was built on Camillo. It was part of the Stone House project.

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  25. The offer from the Coalition should be revisted. Maybe their offer of 10 million or so plus additional fund raising might make this work.

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    1. It would have worked.

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. It is a good thing that I am not a sensitive person.

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  26. I don't think the decision to sell off the land was made by the local board at Mater Dolorosa. I don't think Mater Dolorosa benefits from this at all. I can't imagine that the local board would want to sell off a hunk of Mater Dolorosa.

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    1. It all depends on who is appointing the members of the board. Was it done by fathers living on the Mater Dolorosa site, or their superiors in Illinois? My instinct tells me this was all done in Illinois.

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    2. Mater Dolorosa does not own the property.

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    3. Illinois made the decision to sell.

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    4. Illinois must have hired Cam Thornton as well. Despite his claims that the Passionists are "family."

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    5. I heard that the local Board does have alot of sway. Cam Thornton says they tried to raise the money among the Catholic community. If they did, it was certainly a stealth campaign because many Century Club donors never heard about the land needing to be sold off until the story broke in the Mountain Views News on Nov. 16, 2013.

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    6. Cam Thornton and this Board of Directors seem a little too eager to sell the property despite their protestations to the contrary.

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    7. Thornton makes a living telling rich folks where to invest their money. His conflicts of interest here are beyond the pale.

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  27. We should pray that some creative solution will present itself. A solution where the land can be preserved and the Passionists can get the money they need.

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    1. Get down on your knees rather than take charge of your life?
      He shall be removed by the Posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and at high noon be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law. P.C.

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    2. That is very weird.

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    3. I believe it's a quote from Henry Lamont Beach Posse Comitatus founder a far right wing group.

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    4. An extreme rightwing Catholic group. Just to leaven it with irony a little. Maybe ol' Hen was trying to bring back the Inquisition.

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    5. Look, let's hope that land can be saved if we don't want another One Carter debacle.

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    6. The Catholic Church still has lots of money although they've lost a few lawsuits lately and paid out some money to avoid lawsuits. They should try to buy this property from the Passionist Order.

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  28. That land will be sold off and the Retreat Center will never be the same. How much do you want to bet that they will be kicking themselves a few years after the propject is built that they were so short-sighted as to sell off the land.

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  29. Someone should find a picture of their Houston property to see how they managed to ruin that Retreat Center. However, they don't care. They want the money now - its called greed and Judas suffered from that same affliction a couple of thousand years ago. In that case, Jesus himself paid the price. This time is the neighbors and the Sierra Madre community and all the faithful that make make the pilgrimmage to Mater Dolorosa.

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    1. In addition to their Houston property, they are selling off other property too. I thoght there's a shortage of priests. How much money do they want and need for their retirements.

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    2. They sold some prime property in NY as well.

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  30. Somebody should talk to an attorney about prescriptive easements that may have developed on that property over all the years everybody was walking around over there.

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  31. I know the neighbors all have little gates that allows them to enter the property. I wonder how they feel about all of this.

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  32. 10:01 am. Thank Bart Doyle for the scam from Carter 1 Maranantha proposal. When serving on the counsel he told Maranantha that they could build a school on land not zoned for that use,

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