Open Space Plan Lacks Specifics



 For the past few weeks, there has been a campaign afoot to get property owners to voluntarily hand over $120 per year for a self-assessed tax that would be used to buy more ‘open space.’ Unfortunately, there are more questions about this proposal than answers.

 If someone came to my door and said ‘give me $120 a year and I’ll guarantee you I’ll preserve some land for you,’ I certainly wouldn’t make a dash for my checkbook. Instead, I’d lock it away in a safe place.

 I’ve heard the arguments in favor of this latest plan, including a few through ‘guest columns’ in this and other local newspapers. It’s time more people speak up about the other side of the coin.

 Proponents have clearly said that property owners will be asked to hand over that $120 without any information about the land to be purchased except that it is vacant and offered by ‘willing sellers.’ Ostensibly, those working to get this on the ballot will have that information but don’t want to share it for fear of driving up the parcel price. Apparently, voters aren’t trustworthy enough to decide whether these parcels are worth the money. Instead, we’re asked to simply nod and pony up the funds regardless of the details. That’s not the way I make purchasing decisions.

 When Laguna Beach residents voted in favor of a bond to buy canyon land from the Irvine Co. 20 years ago, we knew exactly what we were getting. It was mapped out, discussed at length and toured.

 By contrast, the current proposal involves individual parcels scattered around town that a small group of people assures us are vacant, adjacent to current open space and available. This same small group has clearly stated that there will be no map of the parcels, no explanation of how they were chosen and thus no way to determine why these particular parcels are available or desirable. It’s not even clear whether or not these parcels could currently be developed. 

 The proposed fee does not pencil out for the acreage targeted, using reasonable formulas for price per acre and the number of parcels that might be taxed. Without specific information about the parcels and who might be exempted from this additional tax (aside from very low-income residents) it would be irresponsible for me to vote in favor of it.

 If this small group of people wishes to purchase empty parcels to keep them from being developed, I suggest they use their own funds or solicit donations from major benefactors they have access to in order to accomplish that goal instead of trying to sell the community an ill-defined bill of goods.

 Sandi Cain, Laguna Beach

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