Council Votes To Settle Over Egret Pond Lot, Critics Cry Foul
Written by 991KBU on May 27, 2020
A divided Malibu city council last night approved a legal agreement with the owner of a vacant lot at the Civic Center … where the owner sued in order to connect to the city’s sewer system.
It was a 3 to 2 vote … with Mayor Karen Farrer and council members Skyler Peak and Rick Mullen voting yes.
Jefferson Wagner and Mikke Pierson voted no.
The land is called the Egret Pond … or the Smith Parcel … or the Third Point LLC land.
You may know it as the thicket of trees that sits just west of the land that was paved with cement by Southern California Edison.
The owner of the land sued the city to join the city sewer district … this paving the way to develop the land.
The state water board says that without the sewer connection land cannot be developed.
City attorney Christi Hogin is defending the lawsuit … she says the city Will win.
But it will cost three hundred Thousand dollars or so … and Hogin says agreeing to add the land to the sewer district does not mean approval for any development.
The developers land use consultant … Don Schmitz … said it was unfair to keep the land undevelopable by refusing to allow whatever is developed there to connect to the sewer.
NEWSCART 75636 SCHMITZ 3D PT
“On both sides of us we have properties which are in phase one and phase two.
“We are a commercial property with a sewage treatment plant literally across the street from us and a sewer line down the Street in front of the property.
“There is simply no justifiable reason to preclude this property from tying into the centralized sewer treatment plant.”
Anti-development activists are furious.
They call it a sellout to developers … a backroom deal engineered by the city manager … and by the city attorney Christi Hogin.
At last night’s city council meeting … Bruce Silverstein blamed the owners of the land for buying it … when they should have known that the the previous owner gave up development rights by deciding not to join the sewer district.
NEWSCART 75635 SILVERSTEIN
“These people give up their rights – not this owner but the prior owner.
“The city does not have any obligation to facilitate development on land.
“It only has an obligation not to prevent it in the city.
“And this city did not prevent anything … the owner of this property prevented it.
“And everything that Ms. Hogin said was in favor of Third Point.
“Don Schmitz and Third Point’s lawyer could have written her script.”
Another resident … Annie Davis … said the egret pond and grove of trees on the land is ESHA … environmentally sensitive habitat area … that must be preserved.
She said the city should prohibit the sewer connection … to keep it open space.
NEWSCART 75634 ANNIE ELLIS
“This parcel in question – the entire property – is mapped ESHA.
“Malibu Bay Company did not want this ESHA parcel developed.
“They voluntarily gave up the development rights on this property.
“They actually wanted it saved.”
Not so … says the city attorney Christi Hogin.
She says that the decision by the previous owner … the Malibu Bay Company … to stay out of the sewer district … was a tax avoidance strategy at that time … and it does not run with the land and bind the new owner.
She said settling the lawsuit now … even though she thinks she’ll win it … will save the city about 300 thousand dollars in legal fees …
Hogan repeatedly stressed that settling the lawsuit now will not allow third point to build anything.
NEWSCART 75633 ELEXN
“You know it sounds like we’re just getting really close to election.
“Because a lot of this is making it sound as if what you’re doing is voting for development.
“And you’re not.
“We can’t vote against it because we don’t want to developed…
“And we can’t vote for because we want it developed…
“Because a (proposed) development is not in front of you … you don’t have enough information.”
And that was a point driven home by Malibu Mayor Karen Farrer … as she asked the city attorney one more time.
NEWSCART 75632 FARRER QA
FARRER: “O-K … so this settlement has nothing to do with land use entitlements? Is that correct?”
And with that … it was a three to two vote … in favor of making the legal settlement with the development company.
CORRECTION: We should note that an earlier report misidentified the actual piece of land owned by the Third Point LLC as the land paved with concrete, just west of Stewart Ranch Road.
This was based on a map provided by the city GIS map system.
It is actually the parcel just to the west of that.