Chapman College's battle to build a $10-million learning center was rebuffed in a key vote by the city Planning Commission Monday night, which refused, 4 to 1, to grant a conditional use permit for the project.
The commission had been ordered by the City Council to make final recommendations on three items the college required before it could begin construction. On a 3-2 vote, the commission approved an environmental impact report. It also approved a zoning change on a 5-0 vote. But it rejected the conditional use permit, which is required before construction can get under way.
The matter now goes to the council, where it already has become an issue in today's city election. The council is expected to act on the recommendations at its Nov. 18 meeting.
The City Council on Oct. 21 ordered the commission to take action on the plan without further delay.
The council order came after Chapman College President G. T. (Buck) Smith said the college might be moved from Orange because of continued delays in getting city approval to build the learning center on campus.
Smith's statement came after the Planning Commission unexpectedly reversed itself and rejected the college's environmental impact report for the proposed building on Oct. 6. The commission had previously approved the environmental statement for the project a month earlier.
The planners in early October said they were withdrawing the environmental impact approval because they wanted more information about alternative sites.
Smith said the college had been patient for months, providing information as requested and even modifying the building plans. But he said the Oct. 6 action--taking back a previous approval--was unwarranted and threatened construction of the building.
"We'd like to be in Orange, but if it interferes with our viability as a high-quality college, then we may have to go somewhere else," Smith said.
The new building would be on the eastern part of the campus, near Center Street, and would house all the campus's computer-related programs, including the School of Business and Management--the largest academic program at the college. A 150-seat Interfaith Chapel also would be in the building.
Opponents have argued that the modern four-story structure would be inappropriate in the Old Towne area of Orange, which adjoins the campus. Some residents also charge that parking and traffic problems will be increased in their neighborhoods if it is built.