Angry property owners in the Trabuco Canyon area Wednesday assailed a county plan to limit growth in the hills northeast of Mission Viejo, calling the development blueprint un-American and threatening to block the proposal in court unless it is scrapped.
About a dozen landowners, who have been largely unheard in the widening debate over growth in a 6,500-acre swath of backcountry, announced at a public hearing Wednesday night that they have organized to fight the county proposal.
"What is being done is a crime," Jerry Trotter told a crowd of 100 people spilling out of the Orange County Fire Department's Trabuco Canyon station, where the hearing was held. Trotter said that he bought 4.6 acres on a ridge overlooking Rose Canyon two years ago but that under the county proposal he would be prevented from subdividing his land.
"Just because I want to subdivide to make some money to pay for my house, I'm considered a land rapist," Trotter said. "What I want is a rural life style. . . . But I also want my rights, my property rights."
Trotter addressed an 11-member advisory group composed of residents and property owners who are reviewing the county's proposal for growth in the Foothill-Trabuco area. Within the next two months, the Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on the development plan, which observers say will establish a benchmark for growth in the county's rural perimeter.
Trotter said the owners, most of whom have fewer than 10 acres, have formed a group called Friends for a Fair Specific Plan to produce an alternative to the county's proposal.
'Oak Trees Have Rights'
Some local residents are seeking growth limits that "rob others of their property values," said Michael Finnegan, a member of the group. "The oak trees have rights, but so do property owners."
To regulate growth in the rural, often rugged region between Santiago Canyon Road and Coto de Caza, county officials are moving toward adoption of a plan that would establish guidelines for residential and commercial development.
County planners have recommended allowing 1,700 new homes to be built and a two-lane road through the eastern canyon areas. Environmentalists and local residents warn that the road will open large tracts of remote backcountry and wildlife habitat to development.
Proposed Road Attacked
Foes of the county proposal want to limit new home construction to fewer than 500 units in the area and delete the proposed Rose Canyon Road, a three-mile road that would run from Live Oak Canyon Road near Hunky Dory Lane to Plano Trabuco Road.
They also object to two proposed churches on Santiago Canyon Road and two proposed shopping centers at Cook's Corner, which is the junction of Live Oak Canyon Road and Santiago Canyon Road, saying that the projects will urbanize an area long known for its rural character and historic oak trees.
The advisory group is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the growth proposal, before the issue goes to the county Planning Commission.