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Mission Viejo : Council Proposes Ban on Building

A building moratorium of anywhere from 45 days to 10 months was proposed this week by the new City Council, known for its anti-development sentiment.

In a 5-0 vote, the council asked the city staff to prepare recommendations for a moratorium, which will be discussed at the council’s Dec. 10 meeting.

The idea was first proposed by Councilman Robert D. Breton in his final meeting as a city planning commissioner on Nov. 19, and forwarded to the council for discussion after Monday’s swearing-in ceremony.

Breton contends that a moratorium is necessary while city officials resolve a dispute with the area’s master developer, the Mission Viejo Co., over a newly adopted general plan--a blueprint for future development. The Mission Viejo Co. recently sued the city, claiming that part of the general plan contradicts a 1987 development agreement approved by county supervisors four months before Mission Viejo’s incorporation.

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The city’s general plan calls for preserving as open space some areas slated for development by the Mission Viejo Co.

“It’s important that we use what little leverage we have left with the (Mission Viejo) company in developing the rest of the community . . . and to resolve these conflicts,” Breton said at Monday’s council meeting.

The council also voted to establish a negotiating team, made up of the city manager, city attorney and community development director, to work with Mission Viejo Co. officials on the issue.

However, company spokeswoman Wendy Wetzel said the county-approved development agreement prevents a moratorium from being placed on remaining projects for its 10-year duration.

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“It wouldn’t be worth anything if it didn’t,” Wetzel said, adding that the proposed moratorium “wouldn’t affect us or our property. But it would be detrimental to others in the community . . . builders of smaller projects, especially during a construction recession.”

Wetzel said that the city has reaped most of the benefits of the development agreement, which called for $45 million in public improvements such as roads, intersections and a community park.

City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said that because the city has received portions of the improvements, it may be too late to change the terms of the development agreement.

Breton on Monday also suggested that the city could declare its general plan ineffective, rescind the document and negotiate amendments to the plan with Mission Viejo Co. officials on disputed properties.


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