Laguna Beach : Plan to Buy Open Space Dropped by City Council

The City Council has dropped a plan to buy open space by raising money through the lease of city-owned land in Sycamore Hills for a 200-room, country-style inn.

Under the plan, Laguna Beach would have leased 50 acres, worth about $1.5 million, to a local developer who would have built and operated the inn.

Lease fees and bed taxes could have amounted to nearly $1 million a year, City Manager Ken Frank said. Much of that income would have been used to buy more than 600 acres of open space in the city for preservation, he added.

But at a public hearing, about a dozen Laguna Beach residents, including representatives of several local organizations, spoke against the proposal. The council quietly dropped the proposal by voting to direct the Planning Commission to formulate an overall plan for Sycamore Hills.

In a letter to council members, Terry Timmins, president of Laguna Greenbelt Inc., urged them to "send those who would develop the greenbelt packing."

"There is serious question in our minds as to how much open space could be purchased by building a commercial development in Sycamore Hills," Timmins wrote.

" . . . Development of Sycamore Hills will only compromise your position as an environmentally responsible city and will open the doors to others who would propose their versions of development within the greenbelt."

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