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Last Big Mission Viejo Home Project Gets OK : Development: Construction of the 719-unit project on Naciente Ridge will end the Mission Viejo Co.'s house-building era.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clearing the way for construction of the city’s last large housing project, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a 719-home development on Naciente Ridge, a series of cactus-covered, rolling hills marking the eastern city border.

Construction of the Mission Viejo Co. project, along with a few others planned at 100 units or less, will end nearly 30 years of home-building by the firm--the city’s sole master developer. A 1987 development agreement between Mission Viejo Co. and county officials calls for the last home to be built by 1995.

And although some major commercial projects remain on the Mission Viejo Co. drawing board, none of them will be on parcels as large as the 423-acre Naciente Ridge, which stretches along Olympiad Road from Oso to Alicia parkways, said company spokeswoman Wendy Wetzel.

In addition, the project is the largest development ever considered by the Mission Viejo City Council, which took office in March, 1988, after the city was incorporated. Before then, Mission Viejo Co. projects were approved by county officials.

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“This is the largest project that will ever come before this city,” said Councilman William S. Craycraft, who had appealed a May 16 Planning Commission vote endorsing the development. Craycraft was concerned that land set aside for 22 acres of parks and playing fields in the project was prone to landslides.

But Craycraft withdrew his appeal just before a scheduled public hearing on the item, saying he was satisfied that grading requirements on the project would solve the problem. Despite Craycraft’s turnaround, the hearing drew nearly 50 speakers and ended about 2 a.m., Tuesday.

“This is such a sensitive thing that everybody had their heels dug in on it,” Councilman Norman P. Murray said. “But we couldn’t turn it down . . . no way. There was no real basis for doing so, and the entitlements to build on that property have existed for 20 years.”

Opponents of the project include residents of the 1,900-home Casta del Sol neighborhood, who complained that the homes would destroy their view of a pristine ridge and increase traffic and parking problems on streets near Olympiad Road. Others wanted to see the project delayed until the council adopts its general plan--a blueprint for development--sometime this fall.

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Backing for the project comes largely from those affiliated with youth sports groups in the community, who presented a petition to the council with 700 signatures of support.

In exchange for approval of Naciente Ridge, the Mission Viejo Co. agreed to build several recreational fields at three new park sites, with improvements valued at $10 million, Wetzel said.

Aside from the parks, another 180 acres of land will remain as open space with some hiking and biking trails. Much of the ridgeline property abuts O’Neill Regional Park in the foothills of Cleveland National Forest.

Wetzel said that including commercial projects, the Mission Viejo planned community is about 85% complete.

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