By TOM JOHNSON
Finally, Museum House comes before Council this week
Tomorrow night, Tuesday, Feb 28, the Museum House project comes before the Newport Beach City Council.
There are several choices the Council can make. The first one is to rescind the previous approval by the prior Council of the project. The Council would waive the reading of the ordinance and vote to “rescind all approvals for the 100-Unit Museum House project,” and then come back March 14 for a second reading to terminate it.
Or, the Council could direct the City Clerk “to return at a future meeting with resolutions calling for an election to the electorate.”
If the Council calls for a vote of the people, there are several important issues that would arise. First off, the City’s 2016/17 budget has no line item to cover the costs of a special election.
According to the City, “depending upon the attachments that are mailed to the voters, the cost may range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars” for the vote.
Could the finish line be in sight? Probably not.
Here’s what is still out there. The Orange County Museum of Art is suing the City under the premise that the font used in the 1,100 page petitions was too small.
I can hardly see a judge overturning nearly 14,000 signatures gathered by Line in the Sand calling for a vote.
One thing is for sure, I’m glad I’m not the fundraising person for OCMA who is going to potentially have to go back out into the community at some point to fundraise.
Then there’s Related California. They followed all of the processes to get the project approved and now are probably feeling that they’ve been harmed. Could a lawsuit against the City follow if the project is rescinded? All I can say is that I’ve heard rumors to that fact.
The bet, however, is that the Council people have realized what a lightening rod this project is and with the 2018 elections less than two years away they want to distance themselves from the project as far as they can.
Remember, in 2018, Scott Peotter, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Diane Dixon and Mayor Kevin Muldoon will be up for re-election.
Adding to that, there are already rumblings throughout the community of potential new candidates for Council lining up.
Tuesday will certainly be interesting.
A couple of additional clarifying points: If an election is called, it would have to be held at least 88 days later. Now if the project is rescinded or loses in a vote of the people, the project cannot be revisited by Council again for a period of one year.
I’ve given a lot of credit in these columns to Line in the Sand to get the project to this point. However, the other side has compelling arguments also: 1. It’s a beautifully designed project and 2. Related California has committed upwards of $21 million in developer fees to the City.