By Tanner Woodward
The preservation of open space and compliance with current zoning laws is a constantly debated topic in the City of Orange. From debates over Ridgeline, Sully-Miller and countless other land usage disputes, it is a topic that is hotly discussed between the city council and developers looking to change zoning in order to turn a profit. Historically, residents in Orange rise up to press the city council when they believe their neighborhood will be significantly altered by reckless development.
Because more and more neighborhoods are being affected, an umbrella group has been formed by individuals from experienced community organizations throughout the city (Save Peralta, Orange Needs Parks, Orange Park Association, Washington Street). The United Neighborhoods of Orange, UNO for short, brings neighborhoods together to protect property rights, preserve open space and support community-minded leaders. UNO can act as a bridge to connect individuals from diverse neighborhoods to city decision makers to keep them accountable for established zoning laws.
One of those community members is Stephanie Lesinski, a Mabury Ranch resident and a founding member of UNO, who makes note of the changes that are occurring in communities across Orange: “For years, developers had the upper hand in Orange. That’s changing. Recent opposition has paid off in land battles over the Sully-Miller site and in the Peralta and Washington Street communities.”
UNO offers experience and resources that can be helpful when individuals are faced with developments that adversely affect their neighborhoods. Understanding land use and zoning laws is critical. By banding together, communities will have a more expansive knowledge of what the city can and cannot do regarding development.
Sue Philipp of Orange Park Acres believes UNO will make a significant impact on the way the city handles zoning disputes. “We’re citizens working for the city. Everyone else is funded by developers, we’re funded by neighborhoods.”
UNO wishes to work with the city council and other public officials to preserve parks and the open land that remains available. The group backs the state Quimby Act that recommends cities provide three acres of open park space for every one thousand residents.
Orange is currently not hitting those guidelines. With a population of about 140,000, Orange should have 429 acres of park space. It’s 168 acres shy of that standard.
UNO reminds communities that development discussions do not have to be one- sided. Neighborhoods can have a say. UNO wants the City of Orange to honor its General Plan and zoning laws, and respect areas that have been designated open space. “Each neighborhood of Orange is a unique slice of the city,” says Jason Shuppert of Peralta. “Each needs to be preserved to keep Orange "'sweet.'" So far, 18 neighborhoods, including Santiago Hills, Fairhaven, Hunter/Diane, West Orange, Jamestown, Old Towne, Chapman/Rancho, Santiago/Walnut and the dog park advocates, agree.
For more information, or to contact United Neighborhoods of Orange, view its Facebook page.