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Belly Acres

[whitespace] Campbell--Oh, the difference three small words can make.

Last December, Campbell's five-member city council voted 3-2 to turn the long-dormant Winchester Drive-In site into a research and development campus after scrapping plans to zone it for commercial use. The site, the logic went, was a little out-of-the-way for the big-box retailers the city was considering, and an R&D campus would make a welcome addition to the neighborhood, which is currently home to storage facilities, auto repair garages and assorted light industrial businesses.

But members of People For Open Space looked at the overgrown lot, lush with weeds and shrubs, and saw a different future for the old drive-in: 24 acres of natural open space in the midst of a concrete jungle.

In response to their concerns, the council included plans for a four-acre park alongside the R&D facility. The open space folks didn't take the bait. Not long after the vote to zone the site industrial, they got busy circulating a petition to bring the matter to the ballot.

There was just one problem: Two versions of the petition, which are legally bound to read exactly the same, found their way onto the clipboards of volunteers. The difference between the two was that one of them omitted three words: "of four acres." The city clerk caught the technical snafu and the matter went to the Superior Court, where presiding Judge Herlihy ruled that the majority of the petition signatures were invalid. People For Open Space appealed on July 24 and Herlihy's decision was upheld. So R&D with a four-acre park it remains.

The issue's been a divisive one for the community, says Mayor Jeanette Watson, but she's not sure people have all the facts. Open space will be plentiful, she claims.

"It isn't just the park," she says. "Along the back border of the property there's a senior mobile home park, and there's going to be a 50-foot-wide landscaped area there, along with some other areas. In all, there are going to be about 10 acres or so of landscaped open space. I don't think people were aware of that."
Traci Hukill

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