SOLANA BEACH — Faced with adopting an initiative for a use policy for Fletcher Cove Community Center they don’t support, spending approximately $200,000 for a special election or ordering a report, council members at the Oct. 9 meeting unanimously chose the latter after indicating that despite the delay, they will ultimately let the voters decide.
“The right thing to do is let the people have a voice,” Councilman Dave Zito said.
For more than two years, city officials and residents tried to create guidelines for people who want to use the renovated bluff-top facility on Pacific Avenue for birthday parties, wedding receptions and other private celebrations.
The building was used for such events until it fell into disrepair in the late 1990s. During a $370,000 renovation that started in 2010, many residents began asking to once again use the facility for private parties.
As plans developed, other residents had concerns about traffic, parking and noise. Compromises were made on several issues except allowing alcohol. Many residents, especially those living near the center, saw it as a public safety issue.
In August, council members adopted a use policy that limited the number of attendees, days and hours of use and the amount of beer and wine only that could be consumed per person.
Those who sought less restrictive rules circulated petitions for a ballot initiative. They collected more than the required number of signatures and filed the petitions Aug. 27.
Had they waited a week or so, the measure could have been included in the June 3 primary election. But the rules governing ballot measures have strict deadlines and the “petition’s timeline missed the deadline for the June election by 4 days,” the staff report states.
According to resident Mary Jane Boyd, a member of the initiative group, no one did the math.
“The people I worked with did not do that,” she said. “We learned about all of this as we moved forward.”
Boyd said it never crossed her mind to count backward from the June election date to determine when to file the petition to avoid a costly special election.
“And if anyone else had that thought they never brought it to our attention,” she said.
Her group’s recommendation to avoid the cost of a special election was to adopt the initiative, which had to be done without changes, and place another initiative on the June ballot at an estimated cost of $10,000 to $15,000.
“At least give it a try,” she said.
In an e-mail, Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said that would be an option, however, in between the time of adoption and the election, “council would have little ability to adjust the policy for public safety concerns.”
Councilman Tom Campbell said those who backed the initiative — Boyd, Tom Golich and Jim Nelson in particular — should “belly-up and pay for the special election, but we know that’s not going to happen.” He also doubted that they missed the June election accidentally.
“They clearly did this on purpose,” he said. “They knew what they were doing.”
In fact, he and Heebner lambasted the initiative backers. Campbell called them “crazy folks” and accused them of “deceit,” “lies,” “misinformation,” “intimidation” and “Washington-style politics.”
“I am thoroughly disgusted with them,” Heebner said. “Those people want political power. … I’ve had it with you all.”
The 1,311 signatures gathered represent 15 percent of registered voters in the city. Mayor Mike Nichols said the other 85 percent should have an opportunity to weigh in.
The report will state any effect the proposed initiative will have on the general and specific plans, planning, zoning and land use. It will also include fiscal impacts as well as impacts on traffic congestion, funding for infrastructure, existing business districts and anything else council members request.
The report must be presented no later than Nov. 8, at which time council members can adopt the ordinance, call for the special election or wait another 10 days to make one of those two choices.
In the meantime, Zito “reluctantly volunteered” to be the point man for public comment on the issue.
We’re faced with doing what’s right versus trying to save money, he said. “We could have done both” if the initiative backers had waited.
Council members also plan to create an ad hoc committee to craft a competing initiative.