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Disney issues may go to vote

Times Staff Writer

The Anaheim City Council is expected tonight to decide the fate of a Disney-funded referendum, a proposed ballot item that would ask voters to block housing in the city’s Resort District.

The council had delayed voting on the item so that a developer and the entertainment giant could try to resolve their differences. The council could choose to rescind its April vote that paves the way for a 1,500-unit housing complex near Disneyland, or it could place the referendum on the ballot.

Frank Elfend, a consultant to the developer, SunCal Cos., said Disneyland and SunCal have been “working together cooperatively” to find a solution to the sometimes bitter yearlong spat. Because of a confidentiality agreement between the parties, it was unclear whether the council would be presented with any new resolutions.

If the council allows voters to weigh in, it has options on when to hold an election -- the cheapest, yet most distant, is Nov 4, 2008, which is the next general election. That ballot is expected to cost the city less than $10,000.

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Other potential election dates are Feb. 5, the presidential primary, and June 3, the statewide primary -- both consolidated elections would cost taxpayers about $250,000.

The council could also set a date for a special election, which couldn’t be held for three months after the referendum was approved and could run about $500,000.

“Special elections are significantly higher because the city must incur all election-related costs, including printing of ballots, hiring of poll workers and other costs,” said John Nicoletti, a city spokesman.

At the previous council meeting, it appeared a majority was prepared to pick an election date. But days before, there were reports that SunCal and Disney officials had discussed settling the zoning dispute.

Hopeful that the parties might resolve the matter through continued negotiation, council members Lorri Galloway, Lucille Kring and Bob Hernandez voted to delay any action after 2 1/2 hours of public testimony. Mayor Curt Pringle and Councilman Harry Sidhu argued that the two sides had had nearly a year to resolve the dispute and that two more weeks wouldn’t make a difference.

Officials with Save Our Anaheim Resort District, a Disney-funded coalition of business and community leaders, said they were hopeful that the Council would take action tonight.

“We’re willing to listen to a reasonable compromise that protects the long-term integrity of the resort,” said Annette McCluskey, a coalition spokeswoman.

“The Council has two options; repealing would end it all, and that would be preferable. But if not, putting it on the ballot would be fine too.”

A rival coalition of Anaheim business owners and residents, which is pursuing a ballot initiative to give voters zoning control over the entertainment giant’s planned third theme park, is asking that the council place its referendum on the ballot.

dave.mckibben@latimes.com


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