By Richard Nelson
We’re currently facing an attempted zoning variance in North Tustin, for the benefit of a property owner and a developer, exercising what they believe are their property rights. This proposal, for the property in Cowan Heights, across from Rocking Horse Ridge along Newport Boulevard, would deviate from the minimum 20,000-sq.-ft. (approximately one-half acre) lot size for which this property, and the surrounding community, is zoned, and instead create 22 lots with approximately one-fifth to one-quarter acre lot sizes.
Property rights are important – beginning with our own. The Foothill Communities Association (FCA) is opposed to this requested change because it does not support our property rights, as homeowners in the North Tustin community.
One very desirable attribute of North Tustin is the availability of larger lots. If a homeowner wants that attribute, it is currently available. That desirable attribute will be negatively impacted if developers can downgrade the zoning of every piece of property. Once lost, it cannot be recovered.
Zoning exists to protect your property values. It’s a promise from local government that we trust and rely on when making, for most of us, the largest financial commitment of our lives. And more, these are our homes, the places where we live, raise our families, and retreat from the noise and chaos of the outside world.
And yes, their financial value is an important entry in our personal balance sheets.
Zoning modifications that break trust with community residents who relied on the existing zoning as part of their purchase decision should not be allowed. Individual property owners should be allowed the maximum freedom allowed by the law to manage, enjoy and dispose of their property as they see fit – so long as those decisions do not adversely impact the other property owners in their community. If someone wants to develop that property, fine – just play by the rules.
If this change is granted, we would see the smallest lot sizes ever permitted in Cowan Heights, a resulting increase in density and traffic, and the creation of a planned development that is not in keeping with the existing zoning and character of the Cowan Heights community. We believe it would make the community a less desirable place to live and lower other property values.
The change would benefit the property owner/developer – but at our expense. That amounts to a gift of public funds – money taken from your pocket and placed in theirs.
From the 1960s, the Foothill Communities Association has worked to preserve the highly valued living environment we share in North Tustin. Among the key underpinnings of that environment are our specific plans and the zoning regulations that protect the rights of all of us.
This requested variance interferes with our property rights. For that reason, the FCA Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose this project. We urge you to do the same. Make your opposition known by signing our “No Rezoning – Again!” petition on the FCA website, fcahome.org.
Richard Nelson is president of the Foothill Communities Association.