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April 22, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, April 22, 2005

Barron Park land debate gets personal Barron Park land debate gets personal (April 22, 2005)

Developer files for restraining order against neighborhood leader

by Jocelyn Dong

A drawn-out dispute over land development in Barron Park has taken a strange turn, with allegations the leader of the neighborhood association asked a terminally ill man to kill the land developer.

That developer, Mark Migdal, has filed for a restraining order against Doug Moran, president of the Barron Park Association and a potential City Council candidate this fall. Migdal alleges Moran threatened his life while talking with Barron Park residents in February.

Moran denies the allegation.

Moran lives across the street from the three-parcel Matadero Avenue property that Migdal has tried to develop for four and a half years. Moran's conversation took place with the property tenants, one of whom reportedly has cancer.

According to police reports, the ill resident and his son were outside their property when Moran approached and introduced himself. During the conversation, talk turned to the proposed development as well as the fact that the father is a war veteran receiving treatment for cancer at the V.A. Hospital.

After telling the father about a back path to get to the hospital, Moran allegedly said it would "be better if you assassinated (Migdal) for us," according to the son's statement to the police.

The father's recollection differed slightly, alleging that Moran said something to the effect of "the neighborhood would be better off if Migdal was assassinated." The father said he took the statement seriously, and at some point that same week phoned Migdal, who contacted the police three days after the incident.

The police report gives conflicting information as to whether the ill man's brother was also a witness to the conversation. It is the brother who told police that Moran said, "Well, since you're going to die anyway, why don't you help me by killing Migdal?"

Both the brother and the son stated their belief that the alleged statement was "more of an emotional response" to the development and were unsure whether to take it seriously.

Moran, who has been president of the association since 2002, denies making any threats against or seeking harm to Migdal. He said the conversation was "casual" and covered a number of topics, including how the residents could receive a welcome packet to the neighborhood.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney has denied filing criminal charges in the case. According to Palo Alto Police Detective Natasha Powers, who investigated the case, the D.A. determined that at least one of the two standards for a criminal threat was not met: It must be a credible threat to commit "great bodily harm or death," and the victim must believe the threat.

Moran said he never had a restraining order filed against him before and added that Migdal's application for one came as a surprise. He also denied knowing that the ill neighbor's cancer is terminal.

Maryann Welton, vice-president of the Barron Park Association and a local architect, said the two or three meetings she's had with Migdal; Migdal's son, David; and Moran have been civil. Though frustration has been expressed, she's never seen Moran "lose his temper nor act unprofessionally."

To the contrary, she said, Moran has stepped in at public meetings to "try to keep discussion on a reasonable level" and help neighbors to articulate the reasons for their opposition.

The Barron Park Association board -- minus Moran, who couldn't participate due to his proximity to the project -- supported a denial of Migdal's development, which would have divided the land into five lots. The City Council ultimately denied the plan on a 4-5 vote, and Migdal may come back before the council with a four-lot plan.

Moran said the restraining order could be Migdal's attempt to keep him from future public meetings at which the project is discussed. But Migdal rejected that charge, saying that the council members already seemed to favor a four-lot subdivision, which was the "key" issue.

Senior Staff Writer Jocelyn Dong can be reached at [email protected]

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