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Ad hoc formed to draft competing initiative

SOLANA BEACH — Council members agreed at the Oct. 23 meeting to form an ad hoc committee to evaluate, analyze and potentially draft a competing ordinance to be submitted to the voters should a special election be called to determine a use policy for Fletcher Cove Community Center.Lesa Heebner and Dave Zito volunteered and were chosen to serve on the committee that by law must be limited to two council members.

When council members failed earlier this year to create a use policy for the renovated, bluff-top facility on Pacific Avenue, a group of residents launched a campaign to let voters decide if private celebrations and other special events could take place there.

They gathered enough signatures for an initiative but turned the petition in earlier than necessary, forcing City Council to ultimately either adopt it as written or call for a special election.

Many residents want the community center to be available for private celebrations that include alcohol consumption. Others say those events will lead to traffic and noise problems as well as public safety issues related to overconsumption of alcohol, especially since the building is directly adjacent to a residential community.

Zito said outright adoption of the initiative is “not right or fair to all parties involved,” and the best way to avoid a special election that will cost the city more than $200,000 “is to come up with a plan that is amenable to the parties involved.”

That seems unlikely since stakeholders tried unsuccessfully for the past two years to work out a compromise.

He encouraged his colleagues to continue to “try to find other solutions to the dilemma that we’re in,” but said the primary purpose of the ad hoc is to “come back with ideas with what a competing initiative would look like” so voters have options.

Mayor Mike Nichols also volunteered to serve on the committee, but Heebner threw her name in because she was one of two people who initially supported alcohol consumption during private events. Zito and Nichols did not.

“There was a split on this council before it got to this point where some of us were for protecting the neighborhood in different ways,” Heebner said. “I don’t want the perception that the ad hoc committee might be perceived by some as unbalanced.”

“No matter where it goes there’s going to be people who say it’s unbalanced,” Nichols said. “If there’s a perception that I’m unbalanced … I don’t want to be on it.”

Nichols offered to flip a coin with Heebner but then withdrew because he said his work schedule was full for the next few weeks and Heebner probably had more free time.

Although council members failed in June to come up with a policy, they did adopt a 14-month trial plan in August that many residents said was too restrictive. It limited the number of guests to 50, alcohol to beer and wine only with a two-drink maximum and the number of days per month when events could be held.

That prompted the start of the initiative process by a group of citizens, many of whom cumulatively donated more than $200,000 to the $370,000 renovation.

Council members discussed the possibility of holding a public meeting during which residents could provide input to the ad hoc committee – a move not required by state meeting laws.

Any such meeting would require proper notification.

At the Oct. 9 meeting, council members ordered a report before deciding whether to call for the election or adopt the initiative. They must receive and respond to the report no later than Nov. 8.


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