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By Jim E. Winburn
The Sierra Madre City Council made surprising progress with the Kensington project on Tuesday, moving the assisted living facility within sight of a Measure V vote.
The council’s greatest concern was over the ballot language needed for voters to decide on whether to permit an assisted living facility project as an exception to the Measure V density requirement, which allows no more than 13 dwelling units per acre downtown. Fountain Square Development West is proposing 75 units at the 1.84-acre property at 225-245 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard.
Working from the ballot language proposed by developer Billy Shields, the council directed City Attorney Teresa Highsmith to draft new language making density the only exception that applies to the two parcels. This would exempt the two lots from Measure V’s density requirements and only for the Kensington Specific Plan.
The City Council made further progress with the Kensington project by approving its proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration and briefly reviewing the Specific Plan.
Though Mayor Josh Moran tabled the Specific Plan to bring it back for further public review at the next meeting, the council did agree to strike out the plan’s prohibitive language on the much-debated kitchen furnishings, which would restrict occupants from having microwaves.
Billy Shields happily agreed to take the restrictive language out of the Specific Plan, saying, “We’re going to allow these seniors to enjoy their new homes in whatever way they wish without being concerned with whether or not a microwave is allowed.”
The public hearing was continued to the council’s next meeting on Jul. 24, when the council will consider a resolution on the Specific Plan and then hold its first reading of the Municipal Code Text Amendment. The zoning text amendment is an ordinance that will amend the Sierra Madre Municipal Code to incorporate the Kensington Specific Plan regulations.
The council appears ready to approve the project and put it on the ballot for voters based on the previous work of the Planning Commission, whose members already spent nine public meetings vetting the project’s Specific Plan and Text Code Amendment.
“I have no problem with approving these right now,” Moran said. “But I do want to give the public one more time to weigh in on the proposed ballot language.”
Residents, many who voiced support for the project during public comment, took an extreme interest in Tuesday’s meeting in part for another reason: the importance of exercising their right to vote through Measure V.
Written and approved by Sierra Madre voters in 2007, Measure V limits new construction in the downtown area to two stories, a height of 30 feet, and a density rate of 13 units per acre.
According to Fay Angus, Measure V is one of the best things to happen to the community of Sierra Madre in the 50 years she has been a resident. Like the 20 others who spoke up for their right to be heard on the Kensington project, she believes the measure is in place to protect the interests of residents who are concerned with the density issues of downtown projects.
“We are at the crossroads tonight, because what happens here will set a precedent … for other properties coming up,” she said.