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Volunteers collecting signatures for a petition to bring approval of a downtown alley abandonment to referendum sit at the entrance of Sunfest last month in the inlet parking lot. The petition was turned in Nov. 2 with 825 signatures.

Total of 612 needed to bring ordinance to referendum

A total of 825 signatures are under review to determine if the city’s abandonment of a downtown right-of-way for a planned Margaritavile resort and the redevelopment of Baltimore Avenue will be going to the voters to decide.

Margaret Pillas, a longtime downtown city resident and former councilwoman, filed a petition on Sept. 22 to bring to referendum the council’s approval of a Sept. 19 ordinance to abandon a 21-foot right-of-way, which includes a 16-foot alley known as Washington Lane, between 13th and 14th streets on Baltimore Avenue.

Pillas and several volunteers spent weeks collecting signatures on a petition that needed 40 percent of the number of voters in the 2020 election, which came out to 612, to force a citywide vote.

According to a memo from City Clerk Diana Chavis, the petition was received Nov. 2 with 825 signatures. She said Board of Elections staff will spend the next couple of weeks validating the names to ensure they are residents and city voters. If everything checks out, board members will set the matter for an election.

The original ordinance to give up the right-of-way passed 6-1, with Council President Matt James opposed.

The developers of a Margaritaville resort slated for the former Phillips Beach Plaza property on the oceanside of 13th and 14th streets asked for the abandonment to create the contiguous square footage needed to advance their project.

The property was also counted among several rights-of-way along Baltimore Avenue set to be remanded back to adjoining owners for the long-planned burying of utility lines from 15th to North Division streets.

While Pillas’ petition specifically applied only to the recent right-of-way abandonment, she has said she is staunchly against giving away any downtown land in this manner.

This story appears in the Nov. 18, 2022 print edition of the OC Today.

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