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Ferry: Stop ‘developmental terrorism’

City: Council member calls on business community to stand up against alleged misinformation campaign

Posted: June 1, 2010 2:06 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry has coined a new phrase: developmental terrorism.
He defined it, too.

"You now have, in my eyes, a small group of people putting out lies, rallying neighbors to come to the City Council" before a plan has been submitted to the Planning Commission, squelching projects before they go through the formal city process, he charged at Tuesday night's council meeting.

"It's a small group of people that are killing businesses, killing job opportunities, killing services and products."

Ferry said these people - a cadre of community whistleblowers and failed council candidates - are anti-development and anti-government.

They have their hands in opposition efforts for everything from the Medical Pointe office complex at Singing Hills Drive and McBean Parkway to the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital expansion to Placerita Canyon road expansions to Smiser Ranch plans at Wiley Canyon Road and Calgrove Boulevard, he said.

"These negative coalitions want to come off as the hero," Ferry said. "‘We saved the day, we saved you from the evil empire.' And they don't care as long as they get the political clout."

The planning process
Under the typical planning process, a developer works with a city's planning staff to form his or her project.

By law, city staff say, they can't turn away a developer seeking advice; rather, the buck stops at the city's planning commission, which decides whether to approve, amend or deny a project.

Santa Clarita's planning commissioners are appointed by the City Council.

As part of the planning process, residents near a proposed development receive a postcard in the mail informing them of a public hearing or public hearings for the development.

Also, a notice is published in the local newspaper three weeks or a month before the project is due to be considered by the commission.

Residents can appeal the Planning Commission's decision within 15 days of its decision, city documents state. In such a case, the project goes before the full City Council for consideration.

‘Coalitions of negativity'
But Ferry said the process is being derailed by "developmental terrorists" who work behind the scenes rallying concerned communities, harboring discontent in the process and grinding it to a halt by scaring developers away.

As an example, he cited the Smiser Mule Ranch project planned for Newhall that fell to pieces after community outcry.

"They're building coalitions of negativity," Ferry said. "When you allow people to do that, you're allowing a very small group of people who have never been elected and do not have to (adhere to California's open meeting law)" to run the city by putting the kibosh on projects without elected officials' input.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean agreed.

"My concerns are that when residents hear about a project (still in the planning stages), there are some people that are telling them that the City Council is in favor of the project and that staff is in favor of the project, and you better get down to City Hall and tell them what you think," McLean said.

"If they are truly wanting to help their community, they will educate the residents. I come from a community activist background and I feel like residents should make their thoughts and their presence known in order to protect their neighborhoods.

"That's fine with me. I welcome that. But they should come with the correct information."

Ferry said developers deserve to have their projects heard in a public forum as much as residents deserve to protest them.

‘It's just ludicrous'
TimBen Boydston, who failed to unseat incumbents Ferry, McLean and Laurene Weste in last April's election, said he didn't take Ferry's comments personally because Ferry didn't specifically name him.

But he challenged the councilman's comments.

"It's not appropriate for a councilman to call anyone a terrorist," said Boydston, a former appointed councilman who frequents community events, including City Council meetings.

"If he's really saying it's wrong for people to come down to the council to talk about projects, that's highly inappropriate. He's basically encouraging developers to sue people that would take exception to projects in their neighborhood."

Ferry said yes, he is encouraging developers to sue - if there's libel or slander involved.

He believes there is.

Boydston said he has "absolutely not" been riling up communities.

"With the Singing Hills residents, someone called me from that neighborhood and said, ‘Hey, can you come to a meeting and talk to us. We need your help and that's what we heard you do.'

"I don't know what they think - that I drive around looking for neighborhoods that are unhappy and knocking on doors? It's just ludicrous."

Campaign donation issue raised
Frequent council fixture Cam Noltemeyer scoffed at the idea that developers deserved equal consideration as homeowners when it comes to property rights.

"I was shocked that any elected official would sit up there and call people developmental terrorists, and to suggest these developers should go and sue these people.

"You're telling the developers who put you in office, who financially financed you into office again, you didn't do any campaigning on your own - and you're telling them they should sue people for having freedom of speech," she said.

It's criticisms like these that ignite Ferry's fire.

Noltemeyer's oft-repeated claim that G&L Realty - the firm behind the Newhall Memorial hospital expansion plan, donated to the reelection bids of Ferry, McLean and Weste - is incorrect, he and his colleagues say.

The firm funded campaign mailers in support of the incumbents, but their war chests did not receive the money.

And the incumbents did not know about the mailers until they were already in voters' mailboxes.

All three voted in favor of the hospital expansion after the expansion master plan was revised numerous times.

Ferry pointed out that Noltemeyer spoke eight times Tuesday night, and after each, city staff corrected things she said that were wrong.

‘Done being silent'
Ferry said people's opinions should be based on facts.

"The entire business community needs to come forward and say, ‘This is libelous and slanderous. You have hurt our businesses.'"
Ferry acknowledged that April's council race was a close one.

He almost lost to challenger David Gauny, who is also now a frequent City Council meeting attendee.

Boydston placed behind Gauny in the race.

Ferry said he didn't fund-raise or campaign heavily, but noted he was still elected along with the other incumbents - and the so-called developmental terrorists should remember that.

"We were elected to (make decisions), not the people behind the scenes who hit-and-run projects," he said.

"The candidates that lost are already campaigning today, and they're already stirring the pot. I'm done being silent."

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