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Bringing with them a real donkey to symbolize their stubbornness, opponents of a housing development on one of Orange’s last areas of open recreational land delivered thousands of signatures Tuesday to the city clerk in an effort to force a citywide vote on the issue.

Last month, the Orange City Council approved Orange Park Acres, a planned housing development on 51 acres in the northeast part of the city. Residents and activists who have long been against the development immediately vowed to seek a referendum.

The group needed more than 7,100 signatures to place the issue on the next ballot. Tom Davidson, spokesman for the opponents, said Tuesday that the group far exceeded the minimum, turning in 12,081 signatures to assure enough valid signatures were collected.

And to publicly demonstrate their determination to see the issue through, the opponents brought a donkey with them to City Hall.

“Matilda [the donkey] represents the stubborn resistance by Orange voters when they don’t think their City Council is paying attention to residents’ needs for parks and open space,” stated a news release.

The city clerk’s office will do a rough count of the signatures Wednesday. If there are at least 7,169, they will be delivered to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

The registrar’s office has 30 days to match each signature with official voting lists to verify each person is registered to vote in Orange.

If the registrar validates enough signatures, the issue goes back to the City Council. The Council can either vote to overturn their June 14 approval of the development plans or let the issue go to the voters. If voters reject the development, it has the effect of overruling the City Council.

The opponents said that at the council meeting Tuesday they will ask the council once again to reject the development plans.

The land, which once was a privately operated nine-hole golf course and swimming club, is one of the last areas of open space in Orange. The city, like most communities in North Orange County, is “park poor,” based on generally accepted recommendations for open space in a community.

— TRACY WOOD

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