The proposed site of an affordable housing complex in Mission Viejo. A ballot initiative slated for June would require that all zoning changes go before voters.

Claims that Mission Viejo’s passage of the so-called “Right to Vote” initiative in the June primary would be the demise of business in the city are wrong, said Brad Morton, the lawyer who represented Councilwoman Cathy Schilcht when she filed a legal challenge against the city’s ballot argument for the initiative, officially named Measure D.

In my post yesterday, city council candidate and land use lawyer Geoffrey Willis said the language of the initiative is written so ambiguously it would restrict businesses from simple expansions, like adding a cancer wing to Mission Hospital.

No so, said Morton.

For business expansions to be put to a referendum they must be over two acres, Morton said, and that “minor variances” in development codes would not be affected. Morton claims that is the proper and clear interpretation of the initiative.

Morton also takes issue with Willis’ assertion that the term “electorate,” as it is used in the initiative, is ambiguous and could be construed to mean 51 percent of all registered voters in the city. Court judges wouldn’t accept an interpretation so out of the ordinary, Morton said.

“It’s pretty hard to imagine any court will interpret it that way,” he said.

According to Morton, city council members — and potential city council members like Willis — are against Measure D because they’re afraid of losing developers’ contributions.

He pointed to a recent judgment that both Schlicht and Councilman Frank Ury, who opposes the initiative, say was their victory. Schlicht filed a legal challenge against the city over a ballot argument, which Ury authored, against Measure D. Morton says that although only two sentences were struck from the argument, they were central to the argument.

“There’s the two big lynchpins right there,” Morton said.

Morton said the opposition staged the bulk of its argument around those two statements – namely that businesses would have to go to a “full vote of the people” if they wanted to expand, and that the Casta Del Sol Golf Course can never be developed with housing.


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