October 2019

Guest Commentary:

Referendum may be the only remedy to protect our property rights

By Laura Thomas

As an Orange resident for 37 years, I have stood before planning commissions and city council hearings more times than I can remember to petition for the best interests of my city and community. Never have I taken a position that would violate property rights.  I have always fought to protect property rights, especially those of Orange residents.

My opposition to the Milan development proposal for the former Sully-Miller site has many legs. Milan has no property rights, and is not entitled to build houses south of Santiago Creek. 

Sully-Miller is a historic inundation zone that acts together with Irvine Park and Santiago Oaks Park to pull water away from the creek when the two upstream dams overfill, which they have  -- with catastrophic effects in the past. Witness the 1969 flood that raged along Santiago Creek. This area has been designated open space for good reasons.

Milan’s proposal is flawed on many levels, as it will: 

•    Undermine long-standing approved and adopted plans that protect neighborhoods;

•    Create possible taxpayer liability by building homes with methane bladders on land that has undetermined toxins, as well as a flowing underground creek and buried silt ponds that could cause liquefaction;

•    Remove a safety zone that helps protect homes downstream from two earthen dams and a creek that severely overflows during rains; dam inundation cannot be mitigated;

•    Reduce designated open space;

•    Worsen daily traffic backup by adding more cars and a stoplight on Santiago Canyon Road, as well as worsen evacuation gridlock during emergencies/evacuations;

•    Open the door to high-density development due to pending state legislation that could allow builders to bypass local zoning laws.

We have had enough.  It is time for the city to step up and do the right thing. Respect adopted plans, make Milan clean up its mess, and take care of Orange residents. 

We cannot permit the Orange City Council to put our future at risk and create taxpayer liabilities. Therefore, should the city council vote to rezone the Sully-Miller site to residential, we have no choice but to evoke our direct democracy rights and circulate a petition for a referendum that will put this issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

Laura Thomas is a past president of the Orange Park Association, co-vice chair of its real estate committee, a local realtor and 25-year member of the Orange Chamber of Commerce.