Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pasadena Star News: Sierra Madre Monastery Declines $10 Million Offer for 20 Acres of Unused Land

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(Mod: Good Zen Vuong article on the Mater Dolorosa development situation in today's Pasadena Star News. An informative summation for those of you who might have missed out on some of the recent events. Zen also gives a lot of ink to Matt Bryant, the Sierra Madre resident who has provided some very effective leadership in the fight to preserve one of the last open spaces in this town. Matt's contribution to this effort has been second to none here, and it is good to see him getting some recognition for his hard work in trying to save so important a part of our community. Here is a portion of that article. For the remainder click here.)

Sierra Madre monastery declines $10 million offer for 20 acres of unused land: To prevent what some residents called over-development, a citizen coalition offered to pay Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center about $10 million for about 20 acres of vacant land.

Since January the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa and Stop the Housing Project has communicated with the retreat center and its owner, Illinois-based Passionists of Holy Cross Province. Earlier this month, however, the owner of the 88-acre retreat center declined the Coalition’s multimillion-dollar offer.

Matthew Bryant, spokesman for the coalition, said the decision disappointed him. He was worried the property by Sunnyside Avenue and Bailey Canyon Park would morph into an enormous housing project.

“It’s not in the best interest of the neighbors or the community at large,” said Bryant, who lives along Mater Dolorosa’s western border. “It wasn’t just disappointment; it was kind of sadness. Right now so many things are changing. We thought the one thing that wouldn’t change is Mater Dolorosa.”

The Passionists of Holy Cross Province has owned Mater Dolorosa since 1924 and dedicated Mater Dolorosa Monastery in 1932. The property has provided retreats for men since 1926, according to its website. The center later opened to the larger populace.

The potential development is still in its nascent stages; eight developers submitted proposals, said Cameron Thornton, chairman of Mater Dolorosa’s Board of Directors. It would be a minimum of three years before the project — if it happens — even breaks ground, he said.

“We do not have a specific design that is set (for the single-family homes),” Thornton said. “We’re going to invite as much feedback during the entitlement process as we can, and we will be reaching out and having public forums. ... The entire process is one that has been thought out very well.”

Residents who oppose new development can point to the 32-acre Stonehouse and One Carter project, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Elisa Cox, the city’s spokeswoman, said this project has gone through multiple owners and has been the object of a lawsuit. Although the property was graded in 2007, only one of the properties has broken ground.

(Mod: 2014 is the 10th Anniversary of nothing ever getting built at One Carter. Outside of perhaps the Downtown Specific Plan, One Carter is the very worst City Council decision in the recent history of our community. That these two decisions were basically the work of the same two former Mayors is not coincidence. Both had Gene Goss and Noah Green signs in their yards earlier this month. No surprises there, either.)

Tonight is the City Council Reorganization

Get there early if you want a seat. Judging by the Corfu invitation list, the Harabedian camp will be bringing in a lot of folks for their celebration of all things Johnny Mayor. And while there are three new City Council members to be seated as well, there are priorities.

Tonight will also be the last gasp of the Civility Party. With the single four year terms of Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran ending this evening, we will now have a City Council with no member having served for more than two years.

I recently put together and posted a list here of the problems the Civility Party has had in governing this town. I've since edited it a bit, and figured I should share that with you today. It's been a rough four years. We are coming out of a particularly difficult era in this City's history, and hopefully this will help folks understand that.

The Top 10 Failures of the Civility Party

1) Water rates increased twice. Twice because they couldn't get the math right the first time. $10s of thousands of dollars were needlessly paid to a second consultant to fix the mess caused by the first one.

2) The highest utility tax rates in California were put on the ballot twice in two years, failing both times. Residents were told various tall tales by the city about their double-digit utility tax rates. Few of which turned out to be completely true, and accordingly were disbelieved by the majority of voters.

3) Many downtown businesses closed, and those storefronts remain empty today. This despite $30,000 in taxpayer money being spent on something called a "Market Demand Study."

4) Our Moody's water bond ratings dropped three times, despite over 100% in combined water rate increases. A problem the water rate hikes were supposed to correct, or so residents were told by this City Council. Currently our water bonds remain rated "junk."

5) Our water ran out. SGVMWD replacement water, which the city is paying near ransom rates for, turns several different rainbow colors and kills pet fish.

6) Health plan costs for select city employees rose to some of the most expensive levels in the entire state of California. This while residents were being told that costs at City Hall had been cut to the bone.

7) The Tree Commission was killed off for no apparent purpose. What was left got folded into something called an EENER. The insulting reason given for this is it would save city staff time.

8) The EENER Commission, after months of meaningless politically correct posturing over just how "green" and "sustainable" Sierra Madre is, goes on life support after Chairperson Paul Alva suddenly quits. No move is made to replace him. Somehow the city survives.

9) Out of the three people elected to the City Council in 2010, none remain. Joe Mosca resigns for reasons never fully explained and leaves the country. Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran decide not to run for reelection rather than face questions about all of the above.

10) When the City needed leadership and guidance during the Bob Matheson/Child Pornography Affair, this City Council did nothing. Instead they quickly shifted all responsibility over to the SMPD, who then also did nothing. Two Councilmembers actually denied ever having known Matheson. Photos soon emerged showing that they were not telling the truth.

(Mod: We plan on "live blogging" tonight's City Council reorganization meeting. Join us at 6:30 if you like.

http://sierramadretattler.blogpsot.com

98 comments:

  1. Its too bad that Mater Dolorosa didn't reach out to more people in trying to find a solution short of selling off land that can never be gotten back. The people of Monrovia were able to preserve some land using a parcel tax and some conservation grant money. If they could do it, surely pro=preservation Sierra Madre could do something.

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    1. I think they need all that money to help defer legal costs and judgments against pedophile priests. We all shall pay for the sins of our Fathers.

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    2. churches are a business

      they should be taxed

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    3. they did consider putting a Boys Club on the property but decided that might look inappropriate

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    4. Mater Dolorosa needs to step back and wait before signing a contract with a developer. They tried so hard to keep this whole thing hush hush. Now that its out in the open, let some smart people figure out something better than a housing project.

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    5. If they wouldn't have kept it so secret, they would have had a better solution. The interesting thing is that Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center will be as hurt by a housing project as the neighbors or anybody else. Can you imagine two story homes blocking their views up their or residents having parties and playing their stereos.

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    6. It's a done deal folks, too late.

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  2. let's not forget that on several of the items listed as failures of the "civility" party, they were joined in the vote by (soon to be anointed) Johnny Harabedian and turncoat Capoccia, both of which remain on council for two more years. Stay vigilant.

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    1. sure all the negative things but Nancy almost came sort of close kinda sort of to putting in a bathroom at Memorial Park or was she closing a bathroom

      4 yrs and she did absolutely nothing and what did Josh do other than provide amusement?

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  3. It would have taken real leadership and visionaries to preserve that land. The Star News article mentions Cameron Thorton as the Chairman of the Board over at Mater Dolorosa as the one who evidently made the decision to sell the land. I, for one, would not one that on my conscience as person who carved up Mater Dolorosa. They kept it intact for almost 90 years through ups and downs including the Great Depression. Its just greed and selfishness.

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    1. Why were all the prior Boards able to keep the land all these years?

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    2. Mr. Thorton needs to pray to the right God and not pray at the altar of the almighty dollar. If he does that, the property won't be sold.

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  4. I'm very suspicous about that line about their doing it to raise money for the "aging priests and retirement costs". Didn't the Passionists have a successful campaign to raise money for this very purpose. I'm sure people would not have donated to that campaign if they knew they were going to sell of the land. I mean how much money do they need for their retirements.

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  5. Its just greed and cashing in while they can. This whole present group of Priests should be ashamed of themselves to put their selfish interests first.

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    1. I bet that Cameron Thorton doesn't even live in Sierra Madre. I wonder how many other people on Mater Dolorosa's Board of Directors actually live in Sierra Madre.

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    2. To Set The Record StraightApril 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      This is a correction to the PSN article. The coalition said that based on many people's input, a parcel tax under $100 would most likely pass, under $200 would be harder, and over $200 was not doable. The coalition was never given the opportunity to try and find large donors or grants.

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    3. Cameron Thorton is quoted in the article as saying that the Coalition never brought wealthy donors to the table but wouldn't that happen after Mater Dolorosa were to say "Ok, we'll give you guys a chance to raise some additional monies on top of the parcel tax." It appears the coalition was never given that opportunity.

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    4. This is why the Catholic Church is in trouble. They have lost their moorings. It doesn't get any worse than selling off property for short-term gain,. I would have hoped that they would think long term - as in eternity. The Passionist Order is closing up shop and will be extinct within ten years when the money runs out and they have no more property to sell. I guess if they see that writing on the wall, selling the land would be a good decision. Cash in now while the present group of priets are still alive so that they can have a comfortable retirement. Its a sign of the times.

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  6. I bet alot of donors to Mater Dolorosa feel betrayed by this decision. They may get alot of money from the sale of their land but their donor base is going to dry up. How shortsighted.

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    1. The donors are finding out and many are not happy. The revenue stream may start experiencing a drought.

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    2. Yes, somehow giving money to support the monastery doesn't make as much sense. Would you want to donate money to a developer?

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    3. I hear that donors over there are pretty angry about the decision.

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    4. Donors should be angry. They solicited donations under false pretenses. Most people wanted to give because they loved the property. The Passionists had a successful campaign to raise money for aging Priests and their retirements as late as Nov. of 2013 that was advertised on their website. At that time, people had donated 4 million towards their 5 million dollar goal. What's with that? Why is that campagin no longer mentioned on Mater Dolorosa's website. Where did that money go? Was that even needed if they were going to sell off the land and get 20 million as Mr. Thorton says.was the goal. Then you have to ask how lavish a retirement do these selfish Priests want. People gave their hard-earned dollars to help their retirement but did not expect it to be an extravagant retirement. Is that what we should expect from people who profess to follow the gospel?

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  7. The land is right next to Bailey Park. What about expanding the park.

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    1. Get your checkbook out.

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    2. How many cities get the chance to expand their park space. Do we really want this housing project with all the traffic and congestion and smog and loss of wildlife. The whole thing's a tragedy.

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  8. Catholic Priests are not known for feeling shame, it is foreign to them.

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  9. A minor correction on the EENR: Avila was vice-chair. He quit and his replacement was agendized for the meeting following his formal resignation (he had missed several meetings for unknown reasons) and his position was replaced with the election of Marguerite Shuster. However, the the blog reports correctly regarding the idiotic demise of the Tree Commission. In the middle of developing the city master forestry plan writing the Grant application from Cal Fire (the state forestry department) by two Tree Commissioners, the Grant for replacing trees lost to the wind storm, and the long-time in coming rewriting of the Tree Ordinance to beef up the ways in which trees were mistreated in SM having to be rewritten again to cover the new EENR overlay, was the boneheaded idea of the now ex-mayor Walsh. What will happen next is anybody's guess.

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    Replies
    1. It would be nice if the new council disbands the ENEERS and brings back the Tree Commission.

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    2. What does an ENEER do, anyway?

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    3. I wish I was an EENER.

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    4. Is your first name Oscar? Is your last name Meyer?

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    5. That is what I truly want to be.

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  10. The land is directly west of Bailey Canyon Park and most people do not realize that area is actually Los Angeles County Department of Public Works land: the debris basin and the land "leased" by the city for the parking lot and the nature park. The city does not own that area. The city owned open space is further on, above the debris basin.

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    1. I don't care who owns it. Somebody could have figured out a way to preserve the open space and allow the same kind of use as before the Monastery put up all the big fences and closed people out.

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    2. Why sell now. We are just coming out of an economic downturn almost as bad as the Great Depression. As the economy improves, maybe they will get more donations and their financial picture will change. They can't reverse the decision once the land is sold - its gone for good and then they will kick themselves and thank that guy Thorton.

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  11. Wait a minute. The anti UUT tax crowd are proposing to raise my Property taxes to buy a park? Odd to say the least maybe I can get a low income exemption......

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    1. Strange, eh? Money used for a good cause that would benefit all. My my.

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    2. The City of Sierra Madre has plenty of parks and churches that pay no taxes we don't need another. The only park in this city I've used in the last 5 years is Bailey Canyon.
      Now that the UUT extension has failed we need revenue not liabilities.

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    3. There would have been a provision for lower income property owners.

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    4. Property Taxes are based on a parcel not an individual. I guess in the fantasy world you could have a low income exemption but not in the real world.

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    5. Sell Goldberg Park.

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    6. Let the retired priests live there. Of course they would have to register their addresses.

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    7. Those who support preserving land cut across the political spectrum. To suggest that its the anti-UUT people who are in favor of it is idiotic. The anti-UUT people will spend money on worthy causes like preserving the last large open space in Sierra Madre for the people and wildlife to use. They probably don't support wasting money on a bloated and inefficient city government. That's why 8:57's comparison doesn't make sense. Each person can decide for themselves whether preserving that open space is a worthwhile endeavor.

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    8. I don't consider myself an idiot. Only fools spend money they don't have. UUT failed so now you want to raise my Property Taxes. Typical elitist behavior............

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    9. If you're not anti UUT why are you even reading this blog? The pro Monastery Coalition is treading a precarious path aligning it's self with this blog...........

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    10. How's that Measure UUT working out for you, 4:28?

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  12. I'm torn

    do I remain silent when Josh and Nancy are announced

    or do I clap gleefully cause they are gone?

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    1. Perhaps you could stand up and turn your back to them

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    2. I will not clap nor stand up for them under any circumstances. Neither one has done anything positive for the city.

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  13. in my years here, I've don't recall a city councilmember throwing a party for him or herself

    what a massive ego with nothing to show for it

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    Replies
    1. It really is Johnny Mayor Night.

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    2. Or is it Johnny Night Mayor?

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    3. is this Corfu party for the newly elected Councilmembers or just a private shindig for Harabedian?

      gawd I hope that a vote is taken and someone else is given the empty title of Mayor

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    4. Depends, did you get an invitation?

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    5. The party is for hs most royal hinney.

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    6. will be a real schmooze slime fest - alot of realtors on the list

      if there was ever a profession that is overvalued and overpaid - its realtors

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    7. Pigs at the trough.

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  14. A Tattler News Alert.April 22, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Off topic, but one we have discussed before. Cyrus Sullivan AKA the Unicorn Internet Extortionist has been arrested again. Our hearts go out to Lady Wistar and all of Cyrus's civil friends in Sierra Madre.

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    1. One of the conditions of his parole was that he could not touch a computer. I wonder if that is what got him into all of that new trouble.

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    2. Looks like one count of assault and two counts of attempted assault. Looks like the US Marshalls are on their way to pick him up too! Cyrus is obviously a genius.

      http://www.mcso.us/PAID/Home/Booking/1299610

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  15. How many and how huge will the houses need to be for the developer to make a profit?
    Where will the second access road be cut? Carter - over county property which will take away parkland and parking and make Grove a heavily traveled throughfare?
    Cut through onto Crestvale and dump onto Fairview? The neighbors need to come together and protest any cut
    through.

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    1. I'd like to see them try and take any part of Bailey Canyon Park with a cut-through.

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    2. Its interesting that there seems to be no Stop the Monastery signs on Crestvale even though those folks stand the most to lose if the corridor is cut through their cul-de-sac. Maybe they want to let other people do the work for them. Then they get what they deserve.

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    3. Those who want to help should go to the Coaltion's website at www.stopmonasteryhousingproject.com They have some good people over there who are trying their best. They could use all the support they can get.

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    4. from personal experience, two families on Fairview were those that were anti-Measure V and didn't care about what happened to downtown so it would be poetic karma justice when the project happens

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    5. We should put aside the past and come together to do what is best for Sierra Madre and that is to preserve this beautiful land that is a landmark in Sierra Madre.

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  16. North on Lima to the end take a left.......

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  17. Who IS Lady Wistar?

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  18. The community should thank Matt Bryant and the Coalition for their work in spearheading a thoughtful alternative to the development of Mater Dolorosa. The ENTIRE community should get involved and solutions will come. Let's go!

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    1. If the community says no to this, it can be stopped. Undoubtedly, the developer is going to be well-funded and agressive. I predict that if it does go through, Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center will be out of business in five years.Donations will dry up and people will just be soured about the whole thing.

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  19. I hope Mater Dolorosa will back off on their time line and give other ideas a chance to work. Let's expand Bailey Park.

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    1. They have been planning this since 2007. The news accidently broke last fall. They have done their due diligence as far as listening to the people. They will be signing a contract very soon since Easter has pasted.

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    2. They haven't listened to the people. They should have held a community forum or something. Evidently they met with the Coalition a couple of times but they never reached out to the community at large.

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    3. One they sign with a developer, Mater Dolorsa is out of the picture. Then the people of Sierra Madre will be dealing with an out-of-town developer who doesn't give a you know what for Sierra Madre. Just like One Carter, they want to maximize their profit and move on to the next project in the next town. They don't care about the carnage they leave behind.

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    4. 3:47 - you are completely WRONG! 1 Carter could have become a tract development. However, the owners (yes, I am talking about Greg Galletly et al) decided to reach out to individual buyers to develop an area of custom built sustainable homes, in order to honor the natural topography of the land and make sure that Carter 1 did not become a place of McMansions. Top architects renowned for their unique architecture were procured to develop sketch perspectives to set the tone for the development. It is the sole fault of the city manager and city council at that time, for proposing a confiscatory hillside management zone ordinance, which eventually bankrupted the owners because they ran out of money to fight the lawsuits. Sierra Madre will now get what they deserve. The city won't tell you how much of your taxpayer dollars were spent working against 1 Carter LLC, but it is definitely in the million plus range.

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    5. One Carter should never have been built on the first place regardless of where the blame lies.

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    6. 7:14 pm - Who died and made you the king? The current zoning and general plan at the time of application at 1 Carter allowed for development beyond what was approved. So you approve of confiscating your fellow neighbor's property rights?

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    7. The developer at One Carter "at the time" was an incompetent buffoon who turned out to be capable of little more than cutting down trees. And believe me, he was no neighbor.

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  20. I believe Mater Dolorosa translates to Mother of Sorrows. Let's ask Mary help us figure out a solution to her namesake property. Where there is a will there is a way.

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    1. 12:05. This is a very good idea. I will ask Mary to pray for us and also the Passionist Fathers that we will find the best solution for all concerned in this matter.

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  21. Other cities find a way to preserve open space, why can't we?

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    1. Because we don't have a city government that thinks along those lines. For them development is money, and that more than anything else is what they want.

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    2. Because the city has higher expenses than revenues as it is. This is a good thing for the city, as people here have explained, more housing means more revenue which means no need to have a high UUT tax. Everyone here should be celebrating.

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    3. The better answer is we no longer have the highest utility taxes in the state plus we don't overdevelop the town. This can be accomplished by the city lowering its expenses. It all goes back to that. High expenses leads to high taxes and overdevelopment. Time to stop the madness.

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    4. 1:03 I sure hope you are joking

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    5. I hope 1:03 is joking. Having a low UUT tax is a good thing. Religion in America is drying up because high tax rates have made people reluctant or unable to give to charities. This is what happened in Europe. No one gives to charity or the church any more because the government takes care of it. Now the churches in Europe have turned into museums. Having a low UUT tax doesn't mean that you have to make up for it by overdevelopment. A good city council can accomplish both goals if the citizen''s money is wisely spent.

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  22. Cameron Thorton and the rest of the Board are not religious people - they are business people and they joined the Board to add their expertise for the sole purpose of selling the property. The property didn't manage to get sold off for almost 90 years. Nice legacy Mr. Thorton.

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  23. Did Amy Putnam become a Woman of Distinction because she was Treasurer for the Yes on UUT Committee.

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  24. I hope the Coalition is successful in stopping the development. If everyone unites and pitches in, it can be stopped. The developer will try the old divide and conquer strategy.

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  25. These proclamations are such crap. Walsh and Moran did nothing.

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    1. I figure staff sits around and develops certain categories then just lumps them on one person or another. Pretty amusing that they gave Moran fiscal responsibility.
      Walsh's accomplishments were pure fantasy, and I understand more now about how the Civility Party kids itself.

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  26. So maybe now an actual meeting will start.

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    1. Nah. Tonight is about applause and cake.

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    2. Johnny Process and Flip Flop Capoccia. Depressing.

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    3. How soon before Capoccia proposes putting the UUT back on the ballot? 1 meeting or 2?

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