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Greenlight shows no-growth agenda

The charade that Newport’s Greenlight movement is anything other than

anti-growth was neatly shattered a week ago with the announcement of

the start of the “Greenlight II” campaign. If voters approve this

latest proposal from the residents group formed before the 2000

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elections, it will stifle nearly all development in the city -- the

good, the bad and the dense.

Greenlight’s latest foray into Newport politics takes the form of

an extension of its original development guidelines, which mandate

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voter approval of any developments that greatly exceed what is

allowed in the city’s general plan -- its blueprint for growth and

development. But instead of basing its standards off what is allowed

in the general plan, Greenlight II would force votes on developments

that add 40,000 square feet of building, 100 dwelling units or 100

peak hour car trips to what already exists in the city.

That is a key difference, and it is where Greenlight irrevocably

switches from a slow- or controlled-growth movement to a no-growth

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movement.

Under Greenlight, a developer can propose a development -- medical

office or condominiums, high-rise office or house of worship -- that

fits into the planned future growth of the city. A part of town, for

instance, might be slated eventually to include 500,000 more square

feet of office space than now exists. Another part might have plans

for a hotel or car dealership. Only if a proposal exceeds the general

plan by 40,000 square feet, 100 dwelling units or 100 peak hour car

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trips do the voters get a say under Greenlight.

Under the new Greenlight initiative, which backers hope to get on

a November 2006 ballot, all such allowances would be void. Newport as

it is today would be the basis for any vote, and the general plan

would be stripped of any substantive meaning.

What might trigger a vote under Greenlight II? The planned Pelican

Hill resort includes 20,000 square feet of meeting space, a 204-room

hotel and 128 villas. The scaled-back senior housing under

construction at Lower Bayview, near Jamboree and East Coast Highway,

will have 110 dwelling units. A condominium plan announced this month

for Newport Center is set to be 200,000 square feet with 79 condos.

And the Lexus dealership, where construction began last month, is

about 130,000 square feet. That’s the Lexus dealership whose owner,

David Wilson, gave the city $100,000 for its centennial float.

Greenlight leaders were quick to pronounce their latest proposal

“not a no-growth initiative.” The group’s spokesman, Phil Arst, told

the Pilot: "[F]or meritorious projects like Hoag Hospital additions,

I’m sure the people would vote for it.”

We’re not so convinced. Thus far, Greenlight has proven only to be

a platform for no votes, and the group has not found a plan of any

importance that it approves of. It was only time before Greenlight

would attempt to tighten its hold, which is what this proposal does,

on development in the city.

Why now? The city is well down the road of updating its general

plan, and the Greenlight forces have loudly decried the changes being

proposed as a weakening of development standards. Greenlight II would

enable them to trump this update, making it meaningless.

That general plan update, by the way, is set to go before voters

in November 2006. But why would the Greenlight group want voters to

make a decision about future development in Newport?


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