Santa Clarita City Council members voted 3-1 to send a billboard deal from Metro to a second reading March 25.
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The move was made after the three-hour discussion turned contentious several times, with a recess taken early on to quiet disruptions to the meeting.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste recused herself from the vote because she lived close to more than one billboard site that would be taken down on the Metro’s right of way.
The proposal from the transportation agency is proposing three large electronic billboards on city land next to Interstate 5 and Highway 14, in exchange for taking down 62 smaller billboards located on Metro land throughout the city.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said City Councilwoman Marsha McLean, responding to opposition about the deal. “It needs to be told, what is correct and what is factual. “
There seemed to be confusion about what was scheduled to happen at the City Hall hearing because the original posted agenda conflicted with what city staff and councilmembers were prepared for, which was noted during public comment.
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting posted last week, stated Santa Clarita City Council members were to look at a staff recommendation for a denial of the proposal from Metro.
Related article: UPDATE: Santa Clarita Staff Recommends Denial Of Metro Billboards
There were 13 amendments City Council members wanted in the Metro deal, but only one was a sticking point, officials said.
The initial recommendation for a denial from city staff stemmed from Metro officials’ verbal agreement Feb. 25 to indemnification terms requested by City Council members that would protect the city from any lawsuits resulting from the billboards, new or old.
Metro officials reportedly then changed their minds, according to city officials, and refused to sign off on the more “bulletproof” indemnity, said Gail Morgan, city of Santa Clarita spokeswoman, hence the denial recommendation.
However, Metro representatives notified Santa Clarita staffers Monday, after the agenda was posted, the revised indemnity would be agreeable, Morgan said.
At the first reading of the Metro proposal Feb. 25 in Council Chambers, more than two dozen members of a standing room only crowd spoke in opposition of the deal, while about a half-dozen spoke in favor.
There was even less vocal support surrounding the dais at Tuesday’s meeting, but a frustrated Councilman Frank Ferry said while a few groups might have held the billboard issue near and dear to their hearts, there were 200,000 people who were looking to have the blight removed. “We just are normal, we don’t come to the meeting,” Ferry said of the deal’s supporters, drawing criticism from the crowd.
Ferry, a four-term councilman, noted he had two meetings left and isn’t running for re-election when his terms ends in April, after laughing at the crowd’s reaction to his comments.
“I’m sorry it hurts after 16 years of getting it,” he said.
Boydston once again came with a list of concerns about the agreement, repeatedly questioning staffers and city attorney Joe Montes and the city manager on the process; however, Ferry made a motion shortly after Boydston relinquished the floor in support of staffers’ “alternative action,” which was to further the deal for a second reading later this month.
Councilman Bob Kellar seconded the move and Boydston was again the lone opposition in the vote.
Disruptions from the crowd drew pause from the dais at several points, with McLean threatening to clear the room and at one point going for the gavel when she felt the feedback was becoming disruptive. Two deputies, including newly appointed Sheriff’s Station Capt. Roosevelt Johnson, were present for the whole meeting.
Santa Clarita residents who came to the hearing in protest of the deal began clapping, but were asked by McLean to raise their hands enthusiastically instead, so as not to disrupt the hearing. This drew waves of hands in the air throughout the rest of the meeting when someone spoke to oppose the deal.
Boydston felt city officials were not being transparent in all aspects of the deal’s presentation, because one of the new electronic billboards was going into an Open Space Preservation District, despite past claims from the city this was not the case.
The proposal calls for a re-zoning of one of the parcels on city land to make this possible, he said.
One of the concerns also expressed from a few of the commenters and Boydston was Santa Clarita was putting a small business owner, Edwards Outdoor Advertising, out of business with the deal.
The company owned leases with Metro to operate the billboards that the company owned. However, a tentative agreement to terms has been reached with Julie Edwards-Sanchez, manager of Edwards Outdoor Advertising, according to City Manager Ken Striplin.
The city would compensate Edwards in exchange for the company taking down the signs in question.
The negotiations were done in closed session, and city officials could not comment on the status, however the deal was expected to be presented to City Council at the next meeting.
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Source: Santa Clarita News