ORANGE : Property Owners Seek Land Rezoning

Property owners on East Culver Avenue this week asked the City Council to rezone the neighborhood to allow additional housing units on each lot.

The neighborhood in southwest Old Towne--bounded by Culver Avenue, Cambridge Street, La Veta Avenue and Shaffer Street--is zoned to allow one unit per each 6,000 square feet.

Property owners are requesting a zone change to allow two units on that amount of land. They argue that their neighborhood is surrounded on three sides by an area that allows more units per lot and they want "parity with the surrounding properties."

Ralph Zehner, a spokesman for the property owners, maintains that many homeowners in his group originally bought their property as an investment with development possibilities.

"We are not going to change the streetscape," Zehner said. "As property owners we all have the right to build or not to build."

Zehner said he hopes to build two duplexes on his property to provide housing for seniors. The development would raise the number of units on his lot from one to five.

But opponents of the proposal say their neighborhood is next to an area zoned for one unit per lot and property owners should look to that area as a guide, preserving the neighborhood for mostly single-family homes.

Resident Frank Tucker criticized the proposal to allow more units, saying it "suggests that the best use of the property is building as many buildings as possible."

Such changes by the council "have occurred in the past but are certainly quite unusual," Jack McGee, city community development director, wrote in a staff report.

The council referred the property owners' comments to the Community Development Department for study before the matter is considered by the Planning Commission.

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