Here is how the increasingly popular folks at Preserve Sierra Madre describe what is at stake.
We also want to bring to your attention that an important City Council meeting will be held this Tuesday, May 12th at 6:30 pm. We hope that the City Council will finally approve the changes to the R-1 Municipal Code as recommended by the Planning Commission particularly as it relates to the lowered CUP thresholds and the mandatory CUP for any 2-story new home or addition.
We have had a majority of the City Council vote in favor of all of the CUP provisions on two occasions now. However, because a slight change was made at the last meeting to increase the floor area limits, there has to be another vote on the entire package of improvements. We hope that our City Council can now move swiftly to enact these provisions that are so critical to protecting our village in the foothills.
This all seems remarkably logical and clear to me. But just to make certain, I will also use someone else's carefully chosen words as well. Here is how one commenter described it yesterday.
The houses on both sides of us have added a second story to their properties. Both are well planned and well done. I have no objection to adding a second floor to houses. I do object to one that totally destroys the integrity of a neighbor's property. A CUP will make sure that our community does the right thing for property owners …
Freedom in matters such as these is a two-way street. There is the freedom someone has to enhance the desirability of his/her home by adding some new stuff, and then there is the freedom of that person's neighbor to protect what he/she thinks is just fine about the way things are already. This is only fair.
I don't see how anyone would have a problem with this. And if you do, you can always take it to Sierra Madre's Court of Appeals in matters such as these, the Planning Commission.
They even look like judges at times. Stern and all. All they really need are wooden hammers.
However, there is a new kind of thought that has been making the rounds in town. Well, it isn't exactly new. Maybe it is more like a zombie that, after years of a-moldering in the cold dark earth, has decided it is time to take a spring hike and see what's up with you all.
These are anonymous zombies, too. None of them seem to want use their names, at least in public. I personally don't have a problem with that. At The Tattler anonymity is a sacred trust, and we are all about that. However, it does bug me that these guys are now borrowing a piece of our shtick.
One of these mysterious fellows calls himself The Watchman of Sierra Madre. He often writes choleric letters to the Sierra Madre Weekly, a paper that enjoys printing all kinds of opinion. Even eccentric opinion. As do we.
The Watchman has a rather unyielding one-sided take on this "freedom to build" issue, however. I mention it because this opinion seems to have gained some traction in town lately. Even a couple of City Councilmen appear to have bought into it, much to the surprise of this community's more thoughtful residents.
Here is a fairly recent missive from The Watchman of Sierra Madre titled "How Absurd Can Things Get?
As one watches and listened to the things that take place at the Sierra Madre City Council, and Planning Commission, only one conclusion has to be made – “How absurd can things get?” The people that speak and the government officials have only one thing in mind and that is to put up as many restrictions and costs they can put on the property owner in the City.
The talk about not counting portions of a lot that is on a slope. If this were to be the case, there are 50% or more of the homes in the Canyon Area that would have to be torn down. They talk about reducing the percentage of area of a lot in an effort to control and restrict the size of the home that can be built. They also do this to restrict the building of a second story to a home. Question – “Do they want to do this?”
They already have a volume of regulations that are preexisting and is such a size that takes weeks to read and digest and we certainly do not need to add anything else. If they want to compare what other cities have done, then they would find that the average size of a City lot is 50 x 100 feet or 5,000 sq. ft. and more than 50% lot coverage is allowed. This is the only City that requires a Conditional Use Permit. Why, oh why do we have or need all these restrictions to the use of property. If a lot is more than 5,000 sq. ft, then make the zoning R-2 or R-3, which would allow more homes on larger lots and would eliminate the necessity of lot splits.
People came to live in Sierra Madre because it had the freedom from big government and the local government was always helpful and didn’t charge a fee on everything that they touched. What has happened to that spirit? Why doesn’t the Government restrict themselves? The way things are going, it is going from bad to worse. Are they trying to kill this town by making things impossible to live with? How soon will it be when a person has to raise their hand for permission to go to the bathroom?
All of which is to my point. In the eyes of The Watchman, along with that mysterious host of freedom phantoms, the rights are all on the side of the person who wants to build. And therefore they should be allowed to build whatever they want without any regard to the hopes and desires of whoever happens to be unfortunate enough to live next door. No matter what the consequences might be to the non-building party.
Which is not necessarily a good thing. Existing homeowners have rights, too.
I suspect that the real issue here for these folks (outside of cash money, of course), is they have now been forced to actually consider the rights of others. Something that makes them feel unhappy and put upon.
It also means that they are going to have to talk to their neighbors and face the real possibility that perhaps those persons might not particularly like what it is they want to do. And could even decide to stand up for their own rights.
Rights that apparently some would now like to take away. And do so in the name of freedom.