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Building Burbank Empire Center is playing with poison

February 16, 2000

David Gordon

Town crier Will Rogers barely got over lamenting the death knell of

Burbank's very unpopular Framework for Settlement agreement to resolve

the airport controversy in his Leader commentary ("Pulling plug on

Burbank's beauties," Feb. 2), when he leaped headlong into the Empire

Center Project.

Will seems disturbed that a few "attention-hungry critics" of the

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Empire Center Project Environmental Impact Report -- otherwise known as

concerned citizens -- who spoke at the Jan. 31 Planning Board Hearing are

heralding a new era of this "community's infinitely harsher attitude

toward all future business development."

To his credit, Will did mention a few important aspects of the massive

$200-million project slated by Zelman Development Company for the former

103-acre Lockheed "B-1" property. Once again, Rogers mocked citizen

concerns. Most disturbing, only a handful of individuals seemed aware

there even was a Planning Board hearing to receive public comments on the

largest retail-office-hotel development ever undertaken in Burbank. Was

this the start of another "stealth" project at the B-1 site preparing to

sail right through City Hall, undetectable to all but a handful of inside

staffers?.

Interestingly, Community Development Director Bob Tague challenged

Planning Board Chair Dr. Bud Hunt's assertion that perhaps there was

inadequate notification of potentially impacted residents. Tague seemed

to suggest the reason only six speakers showed up was that the rest of

the community might not be interested in the project. Fortunately, Dr.

Hunt, a dentist by profession, has experience in pulling teeth. He was

able to extract from Tague an acknowledgment that notifying the thousands

of people living and working within a 1,000-foot perimeter of the

gargantuan project just might increase their interest in attending

subsequent public hearings.

Let's take a closer look at a few of this project's potential impacts

that super sleuth Rogers failed to reveal when expressing his "enormous

empathy for staff and council members who during public reviews likes

this one face constant public smears that run the gamut from allegations

of corruption to charges they eagerly endanger lives."

First of all, an Environmental Impact Report is the legally required

mechanism under the California Environmental Quality Act to inform the

public of projects that may have significant impacts on a community. In

this instance, perhaps more than any prior Burbank development, it is

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