Won't fade away
I want to take the time to send this departing letter, at no fault of my own, to the general public, to my fellow commissioners, and to some city staff and administrators.
With a heavy heart, I am compelled to say goodbye to everyone with whom I worked. I want to thank the general public for allowing me the honor of serving them for six years as their planning commissioner.
I also want to say it was an honor and pleasure to be on the planning commission with such distinguished fellow commissioners, and I wish them the very best in all their future projects. I would also like to take this moment to wish Rick Martinez the very best as he takes a seat on the planning commission.
Being a planning commissioner requires a lot of interaction and project discussions with the city planning department. I want to thank the whole planning department, including the non-planning staff as well, for all the help they provided me. Under the leadership of Director William (Bill) Crouch, a very knowledgeable and professional planning staff has been established. Thank you all for helping me understand some of the most complex projects that the city faced during the time I was on the planning commission. I also would like to publicly give a personal thank you to Senior Planner Chad Ortlieb. His patience and professional guidance helped me better serve the beautiful residents of our city. Thank you, Chad. Bill and Chad make an outstanding team.
On the legal side, I want to also personally thank Assistant City Attorney Gary Sheatz for guiding and advising the planning commissioners through the complex legalities on some of the projects that we commissioners faced during my tenure.
Finally, I would like to personally thank Councilwoman Kim Nichols for the caring heart she has for the residents of our beautiful city. She is truly and sincerely a professional who wants only the very best for the residents of our city.
While I no longer can be the people’s commissioner, I want the general public to know that I will remain active in city affairs. And I will keep assisting and helping residents who seek my counsel against unjust developments.
Former City of Orange Planning Commissioner
It was with great anticipation that many Villa Park residents watched the swearing-in ceremony and mayoral selection process on Dec. 4. Villa Park residents have endured years of divisiveness on the city council, thus a common theme in the November election on the part of Chad Zimmerman and Crystal Miles was to bring unity to the council.
In an unprecedented move, Chad Zimmerman suggested an open discussion amongst council members before nominations and voting began. The conversation that ensued was one of the most collaborative and open that I have witnessed in the many years I have been attending Villa Park City Council meetings.
An even bigger surprise awaited Villa Park residents, however, when Councilman Robbie Pitts nominated Mayor Pro Tem Vince Rossini for mayor. Pitts had a solid chance to become mayor, with many residents voicing their desire for him to be selected. When Pitts made that nomination, he demonstrated to Villa Park that unity in city council will not be dependent only on newly elected Councilmembers Miles and Zimmerman, and that he, too, is on board.
The actions of Councilmember Zimmerman and now-Mayor Pro Tem Pitts set a new tone for the city council moving forward. Our residents can now look forward to a council focused solely on what is in the best interest of Villa Park and its residents.
Mayor Pro Tem Pitts deserves recognition for his selfless decision. Congratulations to our new city council.
My thanks to the members of the Villa Park City Council, especially Mayor Pro Tem Robbie Pitts, for making Villa Parkans so proud of the council’s actions at its December reorganization meeting. The clearly-evidenced intent shown by newly elected, re-elected and continuing council members to work together harmoniously in the best interests of all residents, and the constructive cooperation members’ statements and actions illustrated, are exactly what residents hoped for when we elected these representatives to council.
While not a “prescribed protocol,” the rotation from mayor pro tem to mayor has, for most of the 45 years I’ve lived in Villa Park, been the traditional expectation of residents and the usual procedure followed by effective councils. Residents understand that the mayor in our city is essentially a figurehead -- the one who presides at council meetings and represents the city at official events. That person has no greater influence or “power” than any other member of council. All five are elected to serve equally, with equal voice and equal opportunity to affect council business. The council members, not the voters, annually select who will serve. The mayor pro tem position provides another year of experience for a future mayor, and a backup if the mayor is unable to complete an assigned duty. Committee appointments, while announced by the mayor, have customarily been decided through cooperative interaction and consensus of the council, with input and suggestions from the voters.
It has also been expected that each elected council member will have an opportunity to serve as mayor pro tem and/or mayor during his or her four-year term, if willing. Respect and appreciation for each others’ opinions, strengths, experiences and skills has been the hallmark of successful councils in the past, and it is rewarding to see this cooperative interaction evidenced for the future. Pitts’ unselfish and mature commitment to affirm cooperation and harmony within the council proves him to be the dedicated representative those of us who supported his election know him to be, and assures our confidence in those we have selected to handle the business of the Hidden Jewel with objectivity and responsibility.
Robbie Pitts has been an active member of the Villa Park community for over 20 years, has served two years as a councilmember, and is now the city’s mayor pro tem.
Many of us in the community wanted Robbie to serve as our mayor this year, and felt he was the best choice, since he has given so much of this time and energy participating in community, Rotary and surrounding city events since he’s been a resident.
But during the meeting, during which the council members made the selection for mayor and mayor pro tem, Robbie stunned the audience by nominating Vince Rossini as mayor. Most people in the audience saw this as the most noble act of statesmanship Robbie could have done, as he knew that some residents wanted the serving mayor pro tem (Rossini) to be selected.
I believe Robbie acted in the best interests of the community, as did so many of his 150 supporters who signed a request that Robbie be selected for mayor.
(This letter was signed by dozens -- and counting -- of Villa Park residents.)
The gravel pit on Santiago Canyon Road creates plumes of dust and dirt every time the Santa Ana winds blow, and the air near the gravel pit is terrible. This gravel pit is surrounded by homes, and has been a problem in this community for the last 20 years. This operation cannot be allowed to return to OPA!
As we live very close to the property, the effects were that both my children had asthma and nasal problems -- and I don’t think it’s unrelated to these piles of dirt, gravel and crushed rock that come from construction sites around the county. The dust generated from all gravel pit operations is not the same as the dust created by farming or other periodic natural events. The killer is the fine particles of dust you cannot see. The mining and crushing of gravel creates and releases fine particulate matter called "crystalline silica" into the air, which will be carried by the wind toward homes and schools. These dangerous particles will permeate homes, neighborhood parks, schools, and playgrounds. Adults and vulnerable children and seniors will be exposed to this harmful carcinogen every day, all day. The EPA has cited the gravel pit on two occasions. It is a health hazard. God only knows what is in those piles out there in the pit.
Let’s take the issue of parks and open space off the table for a moment - which is also a pressing issue in this part of Orange. Let’s talk about the public health issues and financial impact caused by the dump site.
I can document the impact this operation has had with regard to:
Noise - five days a week for 20 years the quarry operation would wake us up with the cacophony of machinery, grinding and horns at 7 a.m. This was a clear infringement on my right to quiet enjoyment of my land.
Dust - my home is covered - inside and out - with a fine coat of light gray dust and grime. It is everywhere. The dust is cumulative; each day, over the 20 or more years the pit is in operation, more and more of this hazardous dust will accumulate inside and around homes and the schools.
Environment- nobody monitors what is dumped on this property, and what poisons or toxins may be seeping into our ground water and the river that runs directly through this property. From all reports, the rock being crushed is from road and construction demolition sites and contains many harmful agents. The EPA confirmed this when it visited the site three times in recent years.
Land values - living adjacent to this filthy, noisy, unhealthful eyesore has substantially impacted the property value of our home. There are numerous studies that clearly show a myriad of health issues that are caused by the aggregate dust and dirt broadcast into the community from the site. All one needs to do is Google the subject. It is due to these health issues that studies have found that the prices of homes directly adjacent to a gravel pit operation are reduced by 30 percent on average. Further, homes within a one-mile radius of a gravel pit are reduced - on average - by 14.5 percent. Even homes within two miles of a gravel pit are decreased by 8.9 percent. according to a study on file from the U.S. Senate.
There is no reason why this commercial operation must be located where it is. Times have changed since this operation was located in a relatively rural area 50 years ago. Now this is an equestrian residential community, not a remote area near an old dump. There is no place for a gravel pit like this in the heart of the City of Orange. Developing this area into a park and residential community is the most logical way to get rid of it.
Just say no
I oppose the development called the Trails at Santiago Creek. If this project were to go through, I firmly believe it will negatively impact the entire City of Orange and Orange Park Acres. Traffic on Santiago Canyon Road (which is already horrendous, especially from 4-6 p.m.) would be greatly effected. As a horse owner and trail user, I believe it will also negatively effect the future of the specific plan for Orange Park Acres as an equestrian community.
Diana Des Champs
I oppose the Trails at Santiago Creek. I drive along Santiago Canyon Road from Newport to Hewes Avenue every evening during rush hour, and the traffic is insane. I drive it anywhere between 4 and 6:30 p.m., and it never gets better. The backup starts well before Windes/Meads and doesn’t stop until after Cannon Street. It takes me five-plus signals to get past Cannon.
The backup is the absolute worst right where the Trails at Santiago Creek project would be located. The residents wouldn’t even be able to get out of their tract! They’d be backed up trying to make a right, and waiting for people that stop in the intersection.
Adding another light there would even add to the insanity and the backup. In an emergency, when there is an accident, or when we need to evacuate, emergency vehicles could barely get in.
If you, the Orange City Council, and the planning commission have not driven this route recently during rush hour, I urge you to do so before voting on this project.
The only alternative if you’re going that direction is Chapman, which is just as bad. The backup there is terrible too.
I remember when the area had to evacuate during the fires in 2017, and getting in and out was terrible. Can you even imagine what it would be like with all these extra houses?
I want you to know that I oppose the Trails at Santiago Creek. It really irks me that a developer would want to change the zoning in an area that is NOT zoned for houses and plan to put up 200 homes in that area.
Are you aware of the flood risks that that area is subject to? Not to mention the traffic congestion that would occur at the single ingress and egress point to that area.
Please do the right thing and condemn this development.
Marius van der Watt
This letter is to voice opposition to a zone change for OPA, and the proposed development, Trails at Santiago Creek.
The traffic situation surrounding our community is already a serious problem, which would be made worse by this proposed development. The traffic should not be looked at as a nuisance, but as a serious threat to life in the event of a fire, as was proven in the very recent Canyon 2 Fire. OPA has unique evacuation concerns due to the responsibility to its animals. There is much more to consider than getting a car from point A to point B when looking at traffic in this community.
Another serious natural disaster to consider in creating this new neighborhood is flooding. The development of these homes could complicate, or even create a serious flooding condition. How can the city even entertain building a housing development in a natural sand and gravel pit that has been supplied these natural resources by Mother Nature.
Isn’t there a famous quote, “Don’t fool with Mother Nature?” I don’t believe any amount of money and deal-making can win over the power of Mother Nature.
It’s possible, I suppose, you could win some engineering award with an undertaking of a project such as this, with the natural run-off of earth, and complications from the landfill and methane gas, but who is going to pay for this “major marvel” and be willing to take the responsibility and stand behind it? Milan? The newly-elected city council? Appointed planning commission? Hopefully, never the taxpayers!
Money and power should not prevail over common sense. This developer is shrouded in negativity. There is nothing genuine or progressive about what Milan is offering, only a way for them to save face from an error in judgement and a bad business decision in underestimating a little place like OPA.
Please don’t fall prey to it and agree to a development up against a literal mountain of problems. Let them take and develop what they have legal rights to, and be done with this, once and for all. Let the OPA Specific Plan stand as it was intended, and many fought hard to preserve.
This is not about hindering progress, or preserving the life-style of a few elites. It’s about being protected by those chosen to represent the people against powerful, greedy and personal-interest entities. Let’s not make deals with the devil for a legacy of negative consequences.
I have never written a letter to a city official because I think it would be a waste of my time, but I felt compelled to let city planner Robert Garcia know how I felt about the Trails at Santiago Creek. I have lived in The Reserve for 25 years. The proposal that Milan Capital has filed with the City of Orange to develop the Sully-Miller site threatens safety, open spaces and zoning in OPA, not to mention that traffic will become a lot more impacted than it already is. If you do not believe me, come out here on any workday between 4 and 7 p.m. and see for yourself. If you let Milan’s project for Sully-Miller go through by amending existing general and specific plans, it will have an adverse effect on all of OPA for now and the future.
It's obvious what Milan is trying to do: It wants to hold the horse area, Ridgeline and Mabury Ranch’s approved home sites as bait in order to negotiate for the Sully-Miller site. This is one of the worse investments I have seen and the only way out for Milan is to change the zoning to allow for 200-plus units and recoup some of the money invested. All this does is bail out the investors at the expense of the citizens of Orange.
The Sentry received letters expressing similar sentiments from Bob Zweig, Christopher York, Everett Gels, Ali Youssef, John Reina, Heather Schulz, Thomas and Cinda Wittman and Teresa Johnston