Coastal Residents Seek to Delay Inclusion in New City

Times Staff Writer

For the second time in two weeks, activists in several small, unincorporated coastal communities in south Orange County declared Tuesday that they do not want to be included within the boundaries of a proposed new city of Laguna Niguel.

Arguing that incorporation proceedings so far "have moved too fast," Jack Hollingsworth, a member of the just-formed Coastal Taxpayers for Local Control said there should be another year of study before the communities of South Laguna, Monarch Bay, Three Arch Bay, Emerald Ridge, Monarch Terrace, Monarch Beach and Niguel Shores are forced to become part of Laguna Niguel.

"A city is forever and let's not make mistakes," Hollingsworth said. He and several leaders of the group said they fear that residents of sprawling, mostly inland Laguna Niguel would not share the same philosophy toward limited growth and preserving ocean views as coastal residents do.

Hollingsworth added, "We resent Laguna Niguel wanting to get as much coastline as it can without even asking us if we want to be a part of it."

A county agency that handles annexation issues, the Local Agency Formation Commission, is expected to decide May 6 whether to put the issue of Laguna Niguel's incorporation before local voters in November. The proposal to be considered by the formation commission now includes all seven coastal communities.

'Very Interesting' Objections

The commission's executive director, Richard Turner, said Tuesday that he found the objections "very interesting," but added, "I don't know what their chances are."

He noted that if the seven coastal communities were removed from Laguna Niguel's boundaries, the new city would have no land along the coast.

In a press conference at his ocean-view home in the gate-guarded community of Emerald Ridge, Hollingsworth and four other founders of the coastal taxpayers group said that they had little warning until February that the Laguna Niguel activists were planning to include their coastal communities in the incorporation proposal.

Turner said, however, that he met last December with Hollingsworth and some of the others and discussed the matter over dinner.

Group to Poll Residents

Hollingsworth suggested that the seven communities want to spend the next year studying several options, including whether to remain unincorporated, form their own coastal city, be annexed to Laguna Niguel, be annexed to the City of Laguna Beach or be annexed to the newly forming city of Dana Point.

He said that the 5-day-old Coastal Taxpayers group, which so far has no money and only 15 members, would be polling 4,000 residents of the seven beach communities before the May 6 Local Agency Formation Commission meeting.

Also objecting to a merger with Laguna Niguel were leaders of the South Laguna Civic Assn. Two weeks ago, the association formally asked the Laguna Beach City Council to annex their unincorporated community, thus preventing it from being included in the new city of Laguna Niguel.

But on Tuesday, Stiles Burke, a member of the South Laguna Civic Assn. task force on annexation, said his group also was backing the idea of a one-year delay in deciding South Laguna's fate.

Burke said seeking a one-year delay does not conflict with efforts toward annexation by Laguna Beach. "We have not turned our back on Laguna Beach," Burke said.

"We think we're doing ourselves and Laguna Beach a favor by giving us more time," he added.

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