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IRVINE : Northwood 5 Foes Turn In Petitions

A residents’ group delivered three boxes of petitions to the city clerk’s office Wednesday containing signatures of voters opposed to the Irvine Co.'s recently approved Northwood 5 development.

The submission of about 7,600 signatures marks the second time this year that Irvine residents have used the referendum process in an attempt to halt Irvine Co. projects. In January, residents collected enough signatures to place the Irvine Co.'s proposed 3,850-home Westpark II project on the ballot. But voters narrowly upheld the development Nov. 5 after the most expensive election campaign in Irvine’s history.

With the receipt of Wednesday’s petitions from a group calling itself Irvine Citizens Against Overdevelopment, the city clerk must determine whether the documents contain enough signatures to force City Council action. The council approved the proposed 2,885-home Northwood 5 development last month by a 3-1 vote.

If the petitions contain valid signatures of at least 5,517 of the city’s registered voters, the law requires the council to either overturn its approval of the development or place the matter on the ballot, as occurred with the Westpark II.

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Irvine Citizens Against Overdevelopment was formed of mostly Northwood residents who were against the 416-acre project being built on the orange groves next to their community, said Meryl Schwartz, the co-founder of the group with her husband, Fred. The two began the signature campaign, Meryl Schwartz said, to stop the City Council’s approval of “overdevelopment.”

“We think we kicked booty and we will force them to listen to us,” Fred Schwartz said after turning in the petitions Wednesday.

The Northwood 5 project would be a mix of medium-priced houses, condominiums and apartments just across Hicks Canyon Wash from the current Northwood community. The area is outside the city limits but within the area destined to become a part of the city. The Irvine Co. has said it would ask to annex the land once all of Northwood 5’s approvals were complete.

If the referendum succeeds in overturning the company’s development plans, the company could resubmit the plans to the county for approval, since the land is in unincorporated territory, Irvine Co. spokeswoman Dawn McCormick said.

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“This project is different than the Village 38 (Westpark II) experience in that it is in the county and we have that option that we will continue to consider, but we won’t have any comment on that until the petitions are verified,” McCormick said.

City Clerk Nancy Lacey delivered the petitions to the Orange County registrar of voters office Wednesday afternoon to have the signatures checked. By law, Irvine has 30 days to determine whether the effort was successful. But the process should take closer to two weeks, Lacey said. The city will pay the county about $6,000 to check the signatures.


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