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SEAL BEACH : City Unsure if Mola Can Refile Plans

City officials are unsure whether Mola Development Corp. will be permitted to refile plans for a $200-million residential project identical to one rejected by the City Council in June.

Municipal code or state law may require that the developer wait six months or a year before again seeking approval for the controversial 329-unit Hellman Ranch project, said City Atty. Quinn Barrow.

Mola spokesman Tim Roberts, however, said the company was not aware of anything in the city code that would cause a delay, but if necessary, Mola could “change the project to make it somewhat different.”

Last Friday’s resubmittal of the development proposal opened a third front in Mola’s battle to rescue its project or at least recover the money it claims to have lost seeking approval. The company is preparing to sue the city and the City Council for more than $11 million in damages for rejecting the project, which had been approved by the previous City Council in October.

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In a separate legal action, Mola is trying to persuade the state 4th District Court of Appeal to reinstate the project’s original approval. A lower court rescinded the approval because the city’s housing plan had not been updated as required by state law when the project was passed by the City Council.

Mola officials say the city treated the company unfairly during its last review of the project.

“I don’t believe they fully reviewed the documentation when they first looked at it . . . particularly the soils studies and seismic studies,” Roberts said.

The three council members who defeated the project in June all cited concerns over the safety of building homes on a site that straddles an earthquake fault.

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Roberts said the site was no more hazardous than other parts of the city. “If this property is not developable, there is not another piece of property in Seal Beach that is developable,” he said.

Development Director Lee Whittenberg said the city has 30 days to decide whether it can accept Mola’s new application. If the proposal is accepted, the approval process will have to begin anew with public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council, he said.


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