By Ariel Carmona, Jr.
Diamond Bar – The Diamond Bar City Council approved several resolutions at the Jan. 21 meeting dealing with crucial development decisions in the City, including a proposal to establish a zoning district for the possible construction of a hotel at the site formerly known as the Honda Dealership, and an emergency ordinance amending the City’s Municipal Code prohibiting the operation and establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in order to comply with Federal laws, among other items.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, the Council approved the first reading of Ordinance 1(2014), which would establish a new overlay zone district to promote and facilitate the development of a prominent site, which was formerly the location of the Honda Dealership and a Burger King drive-thru restaurant, located across the 60 Freeway off-ramp, in a manner staff reports describe as, “Consistent with the City Council’s adopted goals and objectives since 2009.”
The City’s Staff Report to the Council specified the City’s plans for redevelopment, including specific plans to revitalize the Burger King and Honda property areas, “In a way that provides the greatest net benefit to the community.” The staff determined, based on the criteria set forth in the Council’s goals and objectives, that the highest and best use for the overlay would be a hotel.
“Any future reuse of the land would require a hotel to be the anchor use,” said Greg Gobman, Community Development Director. “And, any secondary uses on that site would be limited to those prescribed in the Development Code,” he added.
City staff told the Council that a world-renowned consultant took several factors into account to determine what would be the most optimal use of the property. According to the report, two major, mutually exclusive projects have been approved next to the Honda site: The Industry Business Center (IBC), and an NFL Stadium. Under the IBC scenario, a business park including office and industrial space would be built out, while the stadium project would include an ancillary office, medical and retail uses. Neither option would include a hotel.
The staff concluded that based upon the analysis of the consultant, the highest and best use of the Honda property is one with a hotel anchor, with project-specific characteristics dependent upon other factors. “The Honda site itself is literally set aside from the rest of the City. That’s also true figuratively in that its physical isolation and its prominent location at the convergence of two freeways is where we see 200,000 vehicles passing by each day, and in addition to this site being located right at existing and future on/off ramps, there is tremendous opportunity to develop this site in ways that really are not possible elsewhere,” said Gobman.
After hearing feedback from a resident opposing the proposed hotel development option, the Council weighed in on the issue. “I think the opportunity there is to capture the between $600,000 and $1 million in transient occupancy taxes, so I think it makes sense to take that action on this property,” said Mayor Pro Tem, Steve Tye.
In other actions, the Council voted 5-0 to adopt an emergency ordinance prohibiting the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in the City. Previously, the City’s code permitted one use, but City Manager, James DeStefano, said that code may be in conflict with Federal law. He pointed out that the City does not have any dispensaries currently operating.
According to staff reports made public by the City, the conflict between State and Federal laws has led to many Southern California cities, including Whittier, San Dimas, Fullerton, and other cities in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, to place restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, as a permitted land use or place a moratorium on the establishment of such a use.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which enabled seriously ill patients to legally possess, use, and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes under State law. Subsequently, SB420 was enacted by the State Legislature to clarify the scope of the Act, and to allow local jurisdictions like Diamond Bar to adopt and enforce rules and regulations consistent with the Act.
The emergency ordinance prohibits the establishment or operation of what the City deems retail marijuana dispensaries for a period of 45 days and ultimately provides the City time to adopt an ordinance permanently prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted use under the City’s zoning laws.
During the subcommittee reports part of the meeting, Mayor Carol Herrera said that with a lot of people being out of work, there was a minor rash of burglaries during the holiday season. “We are intersected by two major freeways, so we are a relatively easy target,” said Herrera. “I have said before that we have an outstanding Sheriff’s Department that is on the alert to watch out for all of you”, she added. Herrera said officers noticed burglary tools and merchandise in a vehicle during two recent traffic stops. “That’s further evidence that our Sheriff’s Department is doing an outstanding job looking out for the homeowners, and for all of us.”
The next meeting of the Diamond Bar City Council is scheduled for Feb. 4, 6:30 p.m., in the Government Center South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Main Auditorium, located at 21865 Copley Drive, Diamond Bar.