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County OKs 114-Home Project of Bible College, Developer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The rebuilding of a Christian college in the San Dimas area and conversion of much of its campus to a 114-home subdivision won approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week, nearly five years after planning began for the project.

Many San Dimas homeowners opposed the project, saying it would destroy oak-studded Walnut Creek canyon, a rugged refuge for mountain lions and a variety of other wildlife.

But the board on Thursday unanimously approved a joint venture for the project by Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College and Century American Corp., an Orange County-based home builder.

San Dimas city officials and a handful of residents appeared at the board meeting to make a final pitch against the project, which previously had won the support of the Regional Planning Commission.

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They bemoaned the loss of 286 oak trees that will be uprooted during the project’s construction. They also claimed that an environmental impact report for the project had not adequately assessed the damage to the delicate Walnut Creek canyon ecosystem.

But the supervisors said the college had done enough to lessen the project’s damage. They also noted that the plan once called for 182 homes but had been reduced by the developers.

Under the plan approved Thursday, the Bible college will demolish all of its buildings and rebuild in a more compact fashion. It will dedicate nearly 80 acres of open space to add to an existing wilderness area and sell 53 acres to Century American for construction of 114 luxury homes.

The supervisors have control over the project because the 150-acre campus is part of an island of unincorporated county territory, surrounded by the city of San Dimas.

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During Thursday’s debate, the supervisors said the city of San Dimas had missed its chance to control the project when city officials failed to reach a compromise with the college and home builders.

The college had gone to San Dimas officials five years ago, suggesting that its reconstruction plans could be approved and the campus and new subdivision annexed into the city. But negotiations bogged down over the size of the housing tract and the city’s insistence that an access road not come through the neighboring Via Verde subdivision.

The Bible college then took its project to county officials.

Construction is expected to begin within a year, said Century American executive Barry Cottle.

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College officials said they are thrilled by the project’s approval. They said they need the money from the property sale to pay for rebuilding the campus, which has fallen into disrepair since it opened in 1928 as a home for underprivileged boys.

The fundamentalist college said its enrollment has plunged from a high of about 500 to 170, in part because of the dilapidated state of the facilities.

Bruce Melton, a professor and director on the college’s board, said rebuilding the campus would help the college in its mission of training ministers and church workers.

San Dimas officials said they still may have some leverage to force changes in the project.

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If the city does not give its approval for an attachment to its sewer main, for instance, the developer would have to route sewage to the nearest county sewer, about 1 1/2 miles away, said Larry Stevens, San Dimas’ director of community development.

That could cost the builder $1 million, Stevens said. He suggested that the city could allow the closer sewer hookup if Century American agrees to build fewer homes or make other concessions.


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