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Ann Ronan, San Juan Capistrano

Wonder why our downtown has two empty lots that were planned to be hotels? The Historic Town Center Master Plan (HTCMP) has caused confusion and led to two lawsuits against the city. Bill Griffith, represented by Rick Friess, filed a lawsuit against the city and the Hotel Capistrano, and a group called “Save Our Historic Town Center” consisting of Ken Friess, Rob Williams and Mark Nielsen sued the city over the previously planned Urban Village hotel project. Prior to Griffith filing his lawsuit, he pulled the approval for his Inn at the Mission project (bordering Ortega Highway and Interstate 5).

The two lawsuits are wielding the HTCMP as a weapon in completely opposite ways. The Urban Village lawsuit states that the HTCMP is not a valid governing document. In the Hotel Capistrano case, the argument is used that the HTCMP carries equal weight with the General Plan.

At the Oct. 17 City Council meeting, the Council voted to have staff study the implications of eliminating the HTCMP and bring their findings to the Nov. 7 meeting.

The HTCMP has not been implemented, is no longer relevant and is being used as a legal weapon against the city. This is costing taxpayers far too much money in lawyers’ fees and lost revenue from delayed hotel openings estimated at over $1.8 million to date. With this plan in place, the city will continue to be vulnerable to lawsuits and stalled projects.

Eliminate the HTCMP plan, and projects will be clearly guided by the Form-Based Code (FBC) and General Plan. The General Plan is the governing document for overall development, while the FBC is the only element of the HTCMP that is code and provides governance for development in the downtown area. The HTCMP was meant to be a “guiding” document and has only caused problems.

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