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ORANGE : Battle for Parkland Has Only Just Begun

Residents won an important battle last week to keep a Burnett-Ehline/William Lyon Co. development out of Santiago Creek, but they still are a long way from realizing their dream to make the 37-acre site into a public park.

After more than four years of public hearings and plan revisions, last week the City Council rejected the developers’ proposal to build 160 homes and a shopping plaza on the site of the former Santiago Golf Course.

Now residents want the council to consider their proposal for the land, and leaders of a neighborhood coalition will present a preliminary plan to the City Council on Tuesday.

A coalition of five neighborhood groups has pledged to work with the city to raise funds to buy the land, which is owned by the Burnett-Ehline and William Lyon development companies.

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“We have not been able to talk with the council formally about what could happen with the space because there has always been a development proposal before them,” said Ralph Masek, president of the Santiago Homeowners Assn., one of the groups involved. “We are going to ask for their support because we can’t do anything without their cooperation.”

State grants sought by the group require City Council approval, but so far the council has not agreed to cooperate in any partnership with residents.

The developers have not announced future plans for the site. However, Lynn Burnett, principal of the Burnett-Ehline Co., said the company would consider selling the land to the city.

If the land is sold, the next owner will have several problems to resolve. The site is designated in the city’s general plan for an extension of La Veta Avenue from Cambridge Street to Tustin Avenue. An amendment to the general plan would be necessary to delete the four-lane thoroughfare, and the city would need to find another east-west traffic route.

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Burnett said it is impossible to create an alternate plan for the site without knowing the fate of La Veta. Residents have strongly protested an extension of the road.

Residents also are concerned about 22 abandoned homes on Rosewood Avenue which would be demolished under the original Burnett-Ehline proposal.

Burnett-Ehline last week requested that the city take action on the La Veta extension, and the council agreed to discuss the issue at its Sept. 11 meeting.


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