Sherman Whitmore, who battled Burbank residents and officials for eight years over development rights in the Verdugo Mountains, announced Monday that he intends to establish a trust that will grant the city at least $5 million when he dies.
Whitmore, 55, said he wants the money to go to the city’s schools, libraries and “helping the disenfranchised. I want this to help the city of Burbank.”
Whitmore met opposition from the community and the Burbank City Council when he tried to develop the more than 170 acres he owns in the Verdugo Mountains. The council approved development plans in December, 1987, but only after reducing the number of proposed homes on the property from 212 to 129.
Whitmore denied that he is trying to win favor with city officials, whom he once called “unconscionable.”
“I don’t have any more property or projects pending in Burbank,” he said. “Nobody can say I’m doing this to feather my nest because it’s already been feathered.”
The announcement caught many city officials by surprise.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Mayor Al F. Dossin said when told of the announcement. “He’s a very young, healthy man. Depending on the details, I think it’s a pretty nice gesture.”
Dossin said the grant is the first of its kind that he knows of in Burbank. He said other developers have donated money to charitable organizations in the city, but never to the city itself.
Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom said Whitmore had discussed the matter informally with some city officials, but the developer had not presented formal plans.
“That’s a lot of money for the city,” Ovrom said. “But frankly, we wish him a long life and good health, and we don’t see us getting any money from him in the foreseeable future.”
The money will be held in a “charitable remainder unitrust” worth from $10 million to $12 million, at least half of which will go to Burbank, said Whitmore’s accountant, Jeff Jones. Until his death, Whitmore will be entitled to 10% annually of the fair market value of the trust’s assets, Jones said.
Ovrom said he believes that Whitmore will draw substantial tax advantages from the trust.
“I’m sure there are obvious consequences,” he said. “And he has explained the tax consequences to me, but I don’t remember the conversations well enough to explain how those work.”
Jones said the trust was submitted to the Internal Revenue Service for approval two months ago. He said he expects the fund to be approved in two months.
In addition to cutting the number of homes that Whitmore could build in his Verdugo Mountains development, city officials in 1986 rejected his plans to put 33 single-family homes on a 61-acre parcel in Craig Canyon. Whitmore later sold the land to the city for $1.1 million, half of which was paid for by the state.
Plans for the Verdugo Mountains development were recently delayed after the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that it wanted to review an environmental study of the land by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said.
Holland said the review is to ensure that Whitmore will replace water sources, needed by wildlife, that will be removed during construction of the project.