Much misinformation continues to swirl around the Meadows Project. It is easier to leap to a conclusion without doing diligent research into the City's Municipal Codes and ordinances. It is so much easier to form an opinion and then promote it as fact.
All this talk about religious discrimination is troubling. Sierra Madre is a community of churches with worshipers of every denomination regularly attending the church of their choice.
It seems strange that knowing this, our elected officials would support any provision of our local laws that would discriminate, restrict or discourage any of us from expressing our religious beliefs. Yet, supporters of the Meadows Project argue that rezoning the Mater Dolorosa property to Residential Hillside (R-H) does just that.
Let's dig a little deeper and do some research into our municipal codes. SMMC Section 17.52.070 C (1) of the Hillside Management Zone (Chapter 17.52) states as follows :
"Uses in the R-H Zone requiring a Hillside Development Permit. The following uses of land shall be allowed subject to the granting of a hillside development permit in compliance with this chapter: 1) Any primary or accessory use permitted in the R-1 one family residential zone (as set forth in Section 17.60.030") . This section states: "The following uses....shall be permitted in the zones as hereinafter set forth in the following ." A. "Conditional uses--All zones except the Open Space and Resource Conservation Zone include Churches, temples and other places of worship."
To clarify, the Initiative places the Monastery property in an R-H Zone. A clear reading of this section is that "churches, temples and other places of worship are permitted in an R-H zone. "Other places of worship" is a purposefully all-encompassing term that broadly includes a "retreat center " and "religious depictions". To interpret this otherwise is suspect.
Under the Initiative, the Passionists would be allowed to construct religious -based structures on their property upon submission of a hillside development permit, which the City would have no basis to deny. The conclusion that any section of the Sierra Madre Municipal Code would prohibit the right of a religious organization to exercise it's religious freedoms in contradiction of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which has as one of its purposes to ensure religious uses in nearly all zoning districts, makes no sense.
Those seeking to further divide us by arguing religious persecution are way off base and factually incorrect. Those who wrongly say the Initiative will not allow for the expansion of the Retreat Center kitchen are grasping at straws. In reality, the Initiative does not affect the ability of the Passionists to expand any existing facility,i.e. the Retreat Center, or construct a new one under their operation as a place of worship and arguing otherwise is misleading.
With so much information swirling around this complex, ever-changing project, readers are urged to go beyond the glib statements of those seeking to destroy the small town ambiance of our community, research the facts for yourself and discover the truth.