MORAGA -- A call to strengthen Moraga's general plan has momentarily reignited a battle between open space advocates and proponents of moderate levels of development.

Councilman Phil Arth requested on Jan. 23 to temporarily shelve a proposal by Mayor Dave Trotter to modify the town's general plan to defend open space and place a moratorium on development.

According to one of seven objectives discussed at a special workshop earlier this month, the mayor wants officials to "put teeth" into the town's existing general plan, including provisions for deeper protection of ridgelines and curbing development in areas outlined in the Moraga Open Space Ordinance. Voters approved that in 1986, and some unsuccessfully tried to expand it 12 years later.

Trotter also asked officials to consider a temporary ban on development pending a general plan amendment dealing with the Rheem Center area, which includes a shopping center town leaders have been trying to revitalize.

But Arth questioned the timing of such measures, asking that any strengthening of the general plan be put on hold for six months until the Planning Department hires more staff.

Moraga resident and landowner David Bruzzone also argued against the ideas, cautioning about future legal costs that could arise from pursuing such goals.

Bruzzone questioned the need to open "old wounds." In 2008, he helped finance a campaign backing a measure to allow development in Indian Valley and Bollinger Canyon while adding open space elsewhere. The Bruzzones own both areas.

He also fought a competing ballot measure that would have added additional development restrictions to the town's open space ordinance and limited housing densities in areas including Indian Valley and Bollinger Canyon.

"I want the new council to stay productive, utilize resources of our staff, improve our downtown and still maintain the very stringent development controls we have in our community," Bruzzone said. "We will not be losing those. Let's not waste any more time rehashing other old issues."

Former Mayor Mike Metcalf also wasn't sold on the idea and asked to tone down language he called "exciting" but "incendiary." He said land use was already well regulated by the town.

"'Putting teeth' sounds like a war cry," Metcalf said. "I don't want any part of it."

Councilman Ken Chew also questioned the idea that the general plan must be updated every 10 years, though he noted he would recommend that. Chew said he preferred perceived inadequacies be addressed by the council as single items to ease the workload on staff.

Trotter -- an open space proponent -- agreed the language may be "too aggressive," and asked the council to tackle the goal later this year. He, Councilman Roger Wykle and Arth voted to take the issue up again.