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City council: Claremont keeps redevelopment agency intact

Claremont won’t be saying farewell to its redevelopment agency, despite other California cities giving their own agencies the boot within the last few months.

City council voted in favor of adopting an ordinance to keep its agency intact at a meeting held Tuesday night.

On June 28, Governor Jerry Brown passed 2 assembly bills, ABX1 26 and ABX1 27, calling for an immediate suspension of the redevelopment agency’s power with the exception of existing contractual obligations.

 By adopting the alternate voluntary redevelopment program, as outlined in the bills, Claremont City Council will be able to reinstate those powers.

 “Given what we have gone through in the way of public forum on commercial and economic development, it’s essential that we keep the redevelopment agency in place if we are ever to hope for any of those opportunities that are being sought to materialize,” said Councilmember Joe Lyons.

The city’s decision to reinstate the agency will require the city to pay annual fees to the state, according to the legislation. The redevelopment agency will in turn repay the city.

“The agency gets its money from property tax, as tax increments, and then pays the obligation through that,” Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder explained.

The initial payment for 2011-2012 is $1,345,000. An estimated $323,000 will be required the following year, a price that will then be adjusted along with the growth of the city’s annual tax increment, according to Brian Desatnik, director of community development. 

The vote passed 3-1, with Councilmember Corey Calaycay casting the only opposing vote. Mayor Sam Pedroza, who is at home recovering from a serious bicycle accident, was not present at the meeting.

Despite sentiments that Claremont’s redevelopment agency has helped enhance the community’s development, it was concern over the agency’s authority on issues, such as its bonding ability, that left Mr. Calaycay feeling weary of a yes vote.

“They are the only ones that get away with going to a bond without the vote of the people,” Mr. Calaycay said. “In these bad economic times it concerns me, especially when I am reinstituting the agency now and have the chance take a look and see if there are some opportunities to put some protections in for the people.”

By opting in to the alternate voluntary redevelopment program, the city will receive $48.6 million for economic development, redevelopment, and affordable housing projects and programs, according to Mr. Desatnik, who added that choosing to opt out would only give $11.8 million in revenue to the city.

“Clearly by opting in we will preserve a much greater percentage of our local property taxes for local use,” Mr. Desatnik said. “Perhaps, even more importantly, we would preserve the city’s funding source for economic development programs that...are instrumental for promoting business growth in the community and consequently growth in local sales tax, which helps provide for local services.”

 

Wilderness Park has more specific hours

Frequenters of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park may need to make some adjustments within the next several months before lacing up their hiking shoes.

City council voted in favor of an ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting that would change the park’s operating hours. Park hours, currently listed as dawn until dusk, may soon be changed to 7 a.m. until sunset. The changes aim to avoid confusion about park hours, according to city officials.

“From dawn to dusk is not defined in the Claremont municipal code and provides different, and often confusing, definitions to the public,” said Chief of Police Paul Cooper. “More defined hours would assist the public using the park, clear apparent confusion on the part of the park’s users, and hopefully reduce complaints.”

Attention was initially drawn to the matter after repeated concerns were raised by local residents upset over abuse of the wilderness park.

“The people who come to the park create a lot of noise, especially when they arrive. They play loud music as they put on their shoes and pump air into their bikes, engage in lively conversations with their fellow hikers. If they have dogs, the dogs chime in. It’s very noisy and without fail it wakes us up,” said Avi Hershkovitz, a homeowner near the park. “If you set up the Wilderness Park to open at a certain time, you set the waking hours of our families.”

Police investigated residential concerns after additional complaints at a city council meeting in July, and were shocked at their findings. Within 40 days, police issued more than 300 citations for violating park hours.

“I was completely surprised to see so many people exiting the park after dark, and 75 percent of them carrying flash lights,” Chief Cooper said at a previous meeting. “It poses a problem to fire and police because at the furthest point you are 2 and a half miles away on unpaved roads that, depending on the time of year, present a significant challenge for officers trying to get up there.”

Though the council was mostly in agreement over the change in park hours, Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali was not in favor of leaving the park closing time as sunset, adding what he thought was further ambiguity.

“We need to make a clear cut time so that when police enforce that time there is no complaining,” Mr. Nasiali said. “Sunset is still an ambiguous terminology. If it is cloudy, how do we know when the sun has set? I still have a problem with that.”

However, a majority of the council felt otherwise.

“If you look at any newscast, the weather reports all indicate the time of sunrise and sunset. People will make any excuse when they get a ticket. It’s human nature,” said Mr. Calaycay, adding that the main concern is “we don’t want people in the park after dark...the hours need to mirror daylight hours as much as possible.”

Operating hours for 2 parking lots at the Wilderness Park will also be changed to mirror park hours.

Those living next to the park are pleased to see the changes that they say have been “a long time coming.”

“They took our comments into consideration and did something about it,” Mr. Hershkovitz said. “I’m very happy.”

City council also approved a series of penalties for those who continue to violate park hours. The first citation has a $50 charge, $100 for the second and $200 for the third.

A second reading of the ordinance defining the new park hours will take place at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, September 27, at 6:30 p.m. If the second reading is approved, the changes will be adopted 30 days following.

 

New commissioners are welcomed

Claremont officials welcomed 6 new commissioners to their team at Tuesday night’s meeting. Allan Rago will serve on the Architectural Commission, Brenda Barham Hill will take her place on the Planning Commission, and Chuck Freitas, Charles Gerlach, William Funk, and Opoku Acheampong will all become part of the Traffic and Transportation Commission.                           

—Beth Hartnett

 

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