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Laguna Beach : Hearing to Be Held on Wilderness Area Plans

How the city should develop more than 500 acres of green wilderness it owns off Laguna Canyon Road will be discussed at a public hearing held by the Planning Commission on Thursday. The city bought the land, called Sycamore Hills, about a decade ago. Sixty-two acres of the original purchase are now being developed along El Toro Road, but 522 acres remain city property, said June Catalano, director of community development. The land is accessible only from Laguna Canyon Road and extends from about half a mile north of the El Toro Road junction to the Laguna Lakes.

The Planning Commission has two proposals for the area. One would leave it largely untouched, with a small nature center, hiking trails and picnic areas making up the only improvements. Another plan would allow a “rustic inn” to be built on the land, with a network of trails around it, said Mary Fegraus, Planning Commission chairwoman.

Fegraus said the trails and nature center could be built in less than a year, while construction of an inn--which is not supported by a majority of the commission--would depend on how fast development in the surrounding area proceeds.

The Planning Commission will include comments made at the public hearings in its recommendations, which will be sent to the City Council next month, she said. The hearing will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers.

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