MISSION VIEJO : Plan to Build Homes, Sports Fields OKd
Following hours of emotional testimony from residents, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to build 719 homes on the city’s last undeveloped ridgeline.
Although some regret was expressed over the loss of a three-mile stretch of hilltops in east Mission Viejo, the commissioners said that the Mission Viejo Co.'s offer to donate 203 acres of open space and build youth sports fields worth $10 million was too good to pass up.
“The public benefits significantly outweigh the environmental impact” of the project, said Commissioner Ben Meharg.
Wednesday’s meeting concluded 12 hours of public meetings over two days that drew almost 400 people. The audience was evenly split between residents who wanted the ridge preserved and parents hungry to add new youth sports facilities.
Known as Naciente Ridge, the ridgeline marks the city’s easterly border along Olympiad Boulevard between Oso and Viejo parkways. The Mission Viejo Co. plans to build the homes on a 423-acre site.
In addition to the open space, the company has offered to create a network of nature trails for hikers and bicyclists that could hook up with the trails extending from O’Neill Park. The ball fields would be built on 22 acres and satisfy the needs of Mission Viejo’s rapidly expanding youth soccer and baseball leagues.
However, the intense community interest in the project makes it likely that the commission’s decision will be appealed to the City Council, commission members said.
Two city officials who switched their positions to support the project spoke in favor of the proposed development on Wednesday. City Planning Director Clint Sherrod said the public benefits and “the fact that the tract is well-designed has led to my approval.”
A more surprising reversal came from Councilman Robert A. Curtis, who three months ago was fighting a recall attempt largely backed by the Mission Viejo Co. Emerging from a weekend series of meetings with company President Jim Gilleran, Curtis announced his endorsement of the project in exchange for further concessions from the development firm.
Because of the company’s pledge to donate seven acres of land for a civic center, Curtis told the commission he now supports the subdivision proposal.