Residential project planned for Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center stirs up controversy

The project has been in the works for a decade and it would build 42 homes. Some residents are for it, others are against it.

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Friday, May 5, 2023
Project planned for Mater Dolorosa retreat Center stirs up controversy
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The historic Mater Dolorosa retreat center nestled in the hills of Sierra Madre has been there for 100 years. Now, it's in the middle of a controversy that has split the community.

SIERRA MADRE (KABC) -- The historic Mater Dolorosa retreat center nestled in the hills of Sierra Madre has been a part of the quiet community there for 100 years. Now, it's in the middle of a controversy that has split the community.

The retreat is owned by the Passionists of the Holy Cross Province, a Roman Catholic order that wants to sell 20 acres of the 88-acre property.

"We are selling the property because we need the resources to take care of our elderly priest, of which I am one, and to help us support the missions that we have established in the United States, and in other parts of the world," explained Father Michael Higgins from Mater Dolorosa.

The project has been in the works for a decade and it would build 42 homes. It's called the Meadows at Bailey Canyon and the plans show it includes a park and money for water projects.

Those who live there, however, are deeply divided.

"It's a yes vote," said resident Lynn Ann Cuminotto.

Others disagree.

"I don't know why anyone would want to vote anything other than a no," said resident Heather Allen.

Across many parts, signs on lawns are urging people to vote "yes" or "no" on measure M.

"I became very concerned about the environmental impact to the animals up there, as well as to the fire hazard, as well as to the lack of water," said resident Nancy Beckham.

Residents attended an informational meeting Thursday where they discussed all of the issues at hand. There are two projects proposed and some feel this is the better option.

"I want the development as opposed to any other alternative that is possible," said resident John Capoccia.

The city says the alternative would have more homes.

"We have two applications that are submitted to the city. We have an application for 42-unit project and we also have an application for a 50-unit project," explained City Manager Jose Reynoso, who said that second project falls under SB 330, a state bill that was intended to speed up housing developments.

It takes away power from local government to review projects.

"Should the 42-unit project be repealed then the SB 330 project would advance," adds Reynoso.

Some residents are angry about all of this and feel the two choices are simply bad and worse.

"We don't cotton well to a developer's threats which is what they're doing," said resident Howard Hays.

Residents will be voting on Measure M in a special election on Tuesday, May 9.