Plans by Boys Town USA to build five homes for children in Trabuco Canyon were cleared by the County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, despite concerns that the campus would be atop a foothill ridgeline.
The board voted 4 to 0 to reject a final appeal from homeowners opposed to the project. A formal vote was scheduled for Dec. 12 after county lawyers prepare the legal language denying the appeal.
Resident Ray Chandos, who lives within view of the project, has already filed a suit seeking a court order to set aside the county Planning Commission’s approval of the project. The Superior Court suit claims that the project is inconsistent with parts of the county general plan.
“It isn’t anything against Boys Town,” said Chandos, co-founder of the Rural Canyon Conservation Fund. “The residents would have felt the same about whoever was cutting down the ridgeline.” He said residents did not want to be characterized as the “local biggies taking on the orphans.”
The 13-acre project is northeast of Mission Viejo along a ridge between Rose and Hickey canyons not far from Trabuco Canyon Road.
At a public hearing Wednesday, residents told supervisors that they were concerned it would set a precedent for building on ridgelines. They also sought guarantees that the rest of the 76-acre parcel would not be developed.
Supervisor Roger R. Stanton said granting Boys Town permission to build was a way of showing that this wealthy county had some compassion.
Added Supervisor Don R. Roth: “I wish them good luck and welcome them to the county.”
The project would be the first Boys Town USA campus in the Western United States. Other campuses for abused and neglected children are in the East.
Each of the five buildings would house six to eight youths between the ages of 9 and 15, along with one married couple.
Boys Town USA attorney John A. Bergen said the $2-million project would be built on a “minor” ridgeline and not one silhouetted against the sky.
Homeowners argued that the group has enough acreage to build the homes on flatter land, where they would be less visible and cause less disruption to wildlife habitat and views.
Bergen said Boys Town had no other suitable sites, nor any intention of building beyond the planned 13 acres.