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MISSION VIEJO : City Hall Foes Can Circulate Petitions

A last-minute compromise Monday night averted a court battle between the city and a citizens group over language used in a petition calling for voters to decide whether the city should build an $18-million civic center.

Mayor Robert A. Curtis and a leader of the Citizens Action Committee met during a break in the Monday council meeting and quickly reached an agreement after the council had authorized the city attorney to take legal action against the committee.

“Although we disagree with some of the statements” remaining in the petition, Curtis said, “it isn’t within our province to change everything. The city’s interest is simply protecting voters from fraudulent misrepresentation.”

The threatened legal action centered on language in the petition, part of which stated that the City Council had once voted to deny citizens the “right” to vote on the issue. In the agreement struck with the city, the word right was changed to opportunity .

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Committee chairman Gary Manley denied that the petition contained any misleading statements and said the city “has no right to demand changes.” However, the group agreed to make “very minor alterations” in order to avoid going to court, he said.

The compromise clears the way for the committee to start gathering signatures by the end of September. The group needs to sign up 4,000 registered voters to qualify the issue for the June, 1992, ballot.

The proposed ballot measure will ask voters if a new city hall should be built or whether municipal offices should be moved into a vacant, city-owned two-story building at 24801 Chrisanta Drive.

“This is going to be a war,” Manley said. “We have the manpower and financial resources to do this. It’s a hot issue, and we can’t find anyone who wants to build a town center.”

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Approval of the measure would scuttle city plans to construct an 80,000-square-foot civic center complex on Crown Valley Parkway near Interstate 5 within three years. The city wants to occupy half the building and lease the remaining portion as office space.

Curtis said it would be a “tragedy” if the construction were banned.

“It doesn’t make any sense to waste millions of dollars on a makeshift interim facility (the Chrisanta building),” Curtis said. “Our city has the opportunity to immediately plan and develop a city building that will forever satisfy the city’s needs.”

The city now pays $400,000 annually to rent offices at 26522 La Alameda while city officials say renovating the Chrisanta property for use as a city hall would cost at least $1.5 million.

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City officials have already hired consultants and architects for the civic center project, and on Monday, council members looked at possible designs.

“Time is of the essence here,” he said. “The more time we take to put these signatures together, the more money the city will have wasted on this project.”


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