Perhaps it was the lack of precedence here for resident appeals of this kind. Or maybe there were some other considerations at work. After all, sniffing out unusual opportunities to ferret money from the pockets of residents is a kind of specialty of our local government agency. The five figure city chargebacks against the Huck Finn Fishing Derby being a prime example. Here even children's events are fair game.
Apparently after weighing some of the "what the market will bear" criteria involved in double-dunning those who might want to appeal the issuance of a CUP to CETT over that beefy two tiered (though development impact fee rich) hillside eyesore, the price has now been officially set. And the City Manager seems briskly assured about this in her weekly Friday evening report. Check this out:
Legally proficient residents of Sierra Madre have been looking over this rather dicey "done on the run" mega-fee, and it does appear that there are a couple of instances where this McMess may cross the line into illegality.
The first is that this fee is not actually a fee at all. As the City Manager herself chirps, it is a "deposit against costs." Which means that this $7,500 price could rapidly inflate depending on what happens later.
In other words, should you decide to stand up for what most Sierra Madreans want for this town by appealing CETT's primitive assault on architectural decorum to the City Council, you really would have no idea what this will cost you going in. That would be in the unwholesome hands of City Hall. And given their permanent obsession with getting more money, and at every possible turn, who knows how much you will end up having to actually pay?
Fees such as this are supposed to be clearly defined ahead of time. People wishing to appeal something to a government agency have the legal right to know exactly what their fee costs will be before committing precious resources. What our merry City Manager is describing here is akin to handing over your AMEX card and allowing her to issue charges against it for whatever reasons she may wish, and at any time.
Something that, in my opinion, you would need to be certifiably insane to allow.
The other possible legal issue for this so-called fee is that it was obviously done of the fly. There is no established rate card for that sort of thing in Sierra Madre, which means this $7,500 figure was created with no clear policies or rules provided, and without the involvement of any elected officials. Even the dumb ones. That makes this a lawsuit risk, which is hardly the way government is supposed to get done.
The suspicion is that this $7,500 open-ended "fee" was cooked up to discourage people from appealing that controversial One Carter decision to the City Council. The expense of that fee alone being enough to give any resident pause. When you throw in the possibility that the price will go up, and without defining any criteria for this, it becomes something no serious person is going to want to do.
Which is, of course, the most likely purpose here. The last thing some folks on the City Council want is to have to vote on anything to do with One Carter. Obviously the tax happy Three Dudes want those big fat CETT development impact fees. When have they ever not wanted more money?
However, the 3D does not want to be seen in public as supporting hillside McMansions. That would be political suicide. So much of their strategy to date has been to dump that hot potato on the Planning Commission.
Unfortunately for the rather hypocritical Three Dudes, an appeal of the sort we are discussing here could end up putting them on record as supporting CETT's efforts to make a wide swathe of our picturesque hillsides look like Arcadia on steroids. Entirely undoing all of the dudes' painstaking work at responsibility avoidance.
So the City Manager, and with the possible assistance of our at times ethically flexible Mayor (we're not certain, but we do have our suspicions), came up with this legally deficient open-ended fee scheme. Apparently designed to scare off any parties interested in appealing the One Carter decision.
As has usually been the case these last couple of years, this has now backfired badly on them.
I thought Tom Love said we have lots of water!
Everybody loves Love, and never more so than when he wandered into a City Council meeting a few months back and assured anyone with the ears to hear that there is plenty of water to be had. So let's get out there and build us some McMansions.
So how do you explain the following article from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (link)?
San Gabriel Valley’s largest water agency declares water supply emergency - The San Gabriel Valley’s largest water agency has declared a water supply emergency and is demanding that it receive its fair share of imported supplies, or it may have to shut down water wells.
A sternly worded resolution adopted by the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District board late Tuesday night explained that the statewide drought, now entering a fourth year, has lowered the water table in the aquifer to record low levels.
Without supplemental water from Northern California and the Colorado River, the San Gabriel Basin’s levels could drop another 20 feet, rendering active water wells inoperable and sending some cities scrambling for drinking water supplies, according to district officials.
The district, which serves 1 million residents in 18 San Gabriel Valley cities from South Pasadena to West Covina, is teaming with the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster and other districts. The Watermaster formed a drought committee whose task is to identify which areas of the vast underground basin will be affected first and which wells would go dry if the drought persists.
The Beatles once sang, "All You Need Is Love." That may no longer be the case.