The Open Space Initiative paints a pretty picture of scenic hillsides and wildlife filled canyons but in reality our money will go to a self serving committee, fire safety, trail maintenance, pay administrative costs to collect and administer the special parcel tax, attorneys, insurance, title and escrow fees, survey, geologist and environment study groups. Even before collecting signatures last year, they claimed to have spent “tens of thousands of dollars on expert help to get it (the initiative) right.” In other words, our money went to hire clever writers to sway the public into thinking this initiative was worth our continued tax dollars.
Last week’s article (“Open Space Advocates Complete a First Hurdle,” Sept. 9) still didn’t address many of the flaws with this initiative. By their own admission, these lots are not zoned for building, are without utilities or street access. Their argument is that in the future, with better technology and relaxed laws, they possibly could be developed. The building codes, costal commission, design review, zoning laws, neighbor scrutiny and endangered habitat committees have only made it harder, more expensive, and impossible to build in these sensitive areas. These “investors” that own these worthless steep hillsides are stuck paying the property taxes, insurance, weed abatement and attorney fees fighting the abundant committees against them.
It’s no wonder that during the last 20 years, negotiations with willing sellers and tax-favorable partial donations have helped the city to acquire 250 acres for only $12.5 million. The parcels are a money pit and will only become more undesirable in the future.
If this passes, these investors would love to unload their bad investment on the backs of the tax payers. Our building codes and regulations have made it virtually impossible to build anywhere in Laguna other than on a zoned approved lot. These laws and regulations will only strengthen, not weaken in the future. If by some miracle, someone was to get a building permit, it would go through stringent regulations for size, design, impact on the environment and neighbor approval, therefore be an asset to the city, providing much needed property tax revenue.
By voting “no” to this forced tax on the property owners of Laguna Beach, these investors won’t have a willing buyer to unload their financial liability. Either they continue to pay the expenses to maintain the property or donate to unload their financial obligations. Let’s not give them an opportunity to get our tax dollars to bail them out of their bad investment. Say “no” to the thousands of dollars it is going to cost us for the next 20 years to maintain this ridiculous trumped up initiative.
Jill Cooper, Laguna Beach