Subject: San Bernardino County Sun:
Grand Terrace residents protest cityproposal for new center
Grand Terrace residents protest city proposal for new center
Juliane Ngan, Staff WriterSan Bernardino County Sun
GRAND TERRACE - If you have 20 acres of bare ground in the heart of the city, the Southern California way is develop it and maybe even name it, "Town Center.''
Jo Stringfield lives on just such a parcel but she isn't so sure what she wants. And she's not saying much, even through her lawyer.
This puts her at odds with the City Council, which wants that parcel turned into a sales-tax-generating machine to make the wheels of local government turn.
Thirteen of the 14 parcels on the site on the south side of Barton Road east of Michigan Street are owned by Woodland Hills developer Douglas Jacobsen. He wants to build a Lowe's home improvement warehouse, a new Stater Bros. market, a new city library and some smaller shops there. The 14th parcel is owned by Stringfield. There's the rub.
tringfield also dreamed of developing the site but she withdrew her proposal at the April 13 council meeting. As a result, the council named Jacobsen as the developer, almost by default.
Jacobsen submitted two development plans. One excludes the home that has been in Stringfield's family for more than half a century.
Grand Terrace City Manager Thomas Schwab said a resolution of necessity is set for Thursday, to determine whether eminent domain will be used to acquire Stringfield's property. If not, Jacobsen will be asked to design a proposal for development which will develop the 13 of the 14 parcels of land that he owns, around Stringfield's home.
It is a decision that will be completely up to Stringfield, Schwab said.
"It doesn't take a lot of deduction to take the words said by the council that it does not appear that there's any will to exercise eminent domain,'' Schwab said. "I fully expect the developer will withdraw his request for assistance for requiring her property.''
Despite an offer of $1,010,000 for her property, Stringfield has refused to leave her home.
"When (the council) can stop lying to Jo and they can come up with numbers that are valid, then Jo will be prepared to talk to them,'' said Stringfield's attorney Robert Ferguson in a telephone interview on Monday.
At the April 13 meeting, even as the council asked Stringfield to tell them what she wants to do instead of relying on her attorney, she refused to speak.
"Early on my client did talk, but nobody listened, there was no response, and nothing happened,'' Ferguson said at the meeting. Stringfield's silence at the meeting appeared to baffle several members of the council.
Even Schwab said he was perplexed. Although Stringfield says publicly that she wants to remain in her home, Schwab said, "privately her actions don't reflect that.''
Schwab said that if Stringfield decides she wants to remain in her home, that he doesn't think the council would vote to take it through condemnation.
The community too seems to have mixed emotions about the Town Center project.
Former Grand Terrace Mayor Hugh Grant, 74, said he understands the concerns expressed by several of the council members about noise, traffic and air pollution, but a development such as a Lowe's would help build a tax base in Grand Terrace.
"It's a city of homes, unfortunately a city of homes cannot always pay the bills,'' Grant said.
At a protest before the April 13 meeting, more than a dozen residents lined up along Barton Road in front of
City Hall with signs.
"We don't want Lowe's here,'' protester Grand Terrace resident Bill Hays said, "and there's no benefit for Staters to move (from it's existing store on Barton near Mount Vernon). We'd like the City Council to pay attention to local residents for a change instead of the big developers.''
The protest also drew young activists in the community including 18-year-old Vincent Bartman, a Reed Avenue resident who carried a "Say No to Lowe's'' sign.
"This is not what the citizens want,'' Bartman said. "The city council is going against what the city wants, and we're not enthusiastic about this change for the worst.''
Bartman along with others supported Stringfield's cause and opposed use of eminent domain to acquire Stringfield's property.
"I think she's a hero,'' Bartman said. "She's a local hero.''
As she watched protesters wave their signs before the meeting, Stringfield remained tight-lipped.
"It's a very stressful situation and they've all helped me get through this,'' Stringfield said in an earlier telephone interview. "I'm kind of a shy person and to be thrown in limelight like this - is overwhelming.''
"It's my property, my home,'' Stringfield said.
"I think that history will determine whether Jo Stringfield will be remembered as the stubborn lone hold-out that stopped Lowe's from going in the Town Center,'' said Grand Terrace resident Jeffrey McConnell, "or as the heroic little lady that stood up and fought City Hall to help keep the city of Grand Terrace's village-town atmosphere.''
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