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Opposition Grows to Polygon’s Plan for Hillside Homes

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Opposition on the City Council was growing Tuesday to a controversial plan to build a luxury hillside development denounced by skeptics as too large.

Council members Ginger Bremberg and Dave Weaver said they agreed with the Glendale Planning Commission’s rejection of the 35-home Polygon II subdivision on a granite hillside north of downtown.

“Nothing I’ve read so far indicates there have been substantial changes,” said council member Eileen Givens, who voted against a similar plan by the same developer four years ago. “If it is the same project today, I would vote no again,” Givens said.

In a unanimous advisory vote late Monday, the Planning Commission ruled that developer Polygon Communities had failed to moderate the project’s impact on the hilly terrain just west of the Glendale Freeway at Mountain Street.

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Among other things, Planning Director John W. McKenna said the 28.8-acre site could support only about 14 to 17 homes, about half the number proposed by Polygon, without adversely affecting the site’s ridgeline and plant life.

In the hearing attended by nearly 100 residents, critics expressed concern about construction noise, dust and the disruption that workers and equipment would pose for the disabled children who attend College View School at Mountain Street. Residents also complained about the prospect of massive grading, in addition to the impact on traffic.

Polygon, which purchased the land in 1989, first proposed building 61 homes on the hillside that was once a goat ranch, but trimmed the project to 47 houses and finally 40 after the City Council rejected the project in 1993.

Alleging that the council had based its denial on its toughened 1993 hillside ordinance--rather than on the more relaxed previous rules--Polygon filed a $6-million suit against the city.

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According to what some critics called a back-room deal, the developer dropped its suit and the city in turn agreed to consider a new scaled-down proposal under the earlier development standards.

If the City Council rejects the revised project, Polygon may continue its suit against the city, City Atty. Scott H. Howard said.

Howard said the city was trying to minimize legal costs, which now exceed $300,000, and avoid the possibility of losing the lawsuit.

In an eight-page letter given to the Planning Commission just before Monday’s hearing, Polygon attorney John Condas stated that “the city’s outside counsel approached [the developer] about having the city possibly buy the property.”

Neither Howard nor Ben Kaufman, the city’s special counsel assigned to the case, would comment on Condas’ statement.

Larry Olin, president of Irvine-based Polygon Communities--also known as Rancho San Rafael Estates--could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Condas also refused to comment after the commission’s vote Monday night.

“They’ve been treated more than fairly,” Bremberg said of the developer’s seven-year effort to gain city approval.

Robert McCormick, the Planning Commission chairman, said he respects a landowner’s right to develop his property to “its highest and best use.” But he said developers also must comply with the codes and ordinances that are in place.

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Givens said she will review all relevant documents, including the city Planning Department’s recommendation for denial, before deciding how she will vote when the matter comes before the council July 1.

Mayor Larry Zarian, who voted against the project in 1993, and Councilman Sheldon S. Baker, who was not on the council at the time, said they had yet to consider all the evidence in the case.


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