At least 7,144 signatures must be validated by the City’s elections official to place the issues before the voters. OCFPR submitted more than 9,000 signatures for each referendum, leaving organizers hopeful that both issues will qualify. If the referenda qualify, the City Council must choose either (1) to rescind the approvals, or (2) to put them to a vote of the people at an upcoming election.
“Orange is greatly lacking in public open and recreational space,” said Kelly Carlberg, a member of OCFPR and a key organizer of the referendum petitions. “The people who live here value open space, and they don’t want to see the City’s limited recreational areas lost. The City Council had a chance to side with local residents instead of developers who contributed heavily to their campaigns, but they chose the developers. In the face of the Council ignoring the will of their constituents, the voters are banding together in order to stop the project.”
Orange City Council members have now passed a total of three enactments to allow the Ridgeline project. The first enactment, a General Plan Amendment, was approved by the City Council on June 14th. OCFPR immediately launched a referendum campaign to challenge this action, and the City’s elections official has already certified that sufficient signatures were submitted to qualify it. The City Council has yet to decide whether to rescind the General Plan Amendment or to submit it to a vote of the people.
On July 12, the City Council gave final approval to two further enactments needed for the development: an amendment to the City’s Zoning Code and a Development Agreement. The Development Agreement spells out the specific terms of the Ridgeline Equestrian Estates project.
California law grants citizens up to 30 days after a legislative enactment is attested by the City Clerk, to gather signatures on a referendum petition challenging the enactment. Today was the deadline for opponents to the Ridgeline Project to submit signatures to qualify their referenda on the Zoning Amendment and the Development Agreement.
A spokesperson for the developer recently admitted to the Orange County Register that they were circulating a petition within the City of Orange at the same time OCFPR was gathering signatures for these referenda. The spokesperson confirmed that the developer’s petition was never intended to be submitted to the Registrar or any official body. This admission reinforced concerns within OCFPR that the developer was attempting to confuse the public and thwart the legitimate signature collection effort by circulating its competing petition.
An official complaint against the developer has been filed with California Secretary of State Deborah Bowen, requesting an investigation to determine if such activities violate state criminal laws protecting the right of referendum.
“Our community is shocked by the disingenuous tactics used by the proponents of the Ridgeline development throughout this process,” said Tom Davidson, a representative of OCFPR. “These tactics designed to confuse voters reveal how little regard these developers have for Orange residents. Clearly, investors in this project care only about maximizing profits, rather than creating a balanced project that would promote public access to open space and recreation.”
“The City Council should do the right thing and send the developer back to the drawing board,” continued Ms. Sears. “When a group of volunteers succeeds in gathering this many signatures in such a short period, it’s a sign that there is real concern throughout our community about this deal.”
About Orange Citizens for Parks and Recreation
OCFPR is a broad-based bipartisan coalition with members from all parts of Orange. The group’s central goal is to protect recreational open space within the City. For more information, see www.Orange-Needs-Parks.org.