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IRVINE : Northwood 5 Tract Gets Initial OK

The City Council this week granted preliminary approval to the Irvine Co. to build 2,885 homes on 416 acres of orange groves just north of the city.

The council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday night, with Councilwoman Paula Werner objecting, to allow homes and a retail center on the land just northeast of the current Northwood community. Werner opposed the project, she said, because many of her constituents do not want it built.

The Irvine Co.'s Northwood 5 project is the second major residential development approved by the council in the past year. In December, the council approved the 3,850-home Westpark II development on an agricultural field in central Irvine.

The council’s vote Tuesday to allow the Northwood 5 residential development requires a second vote of confirmation before taking effect.

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Councilman Bill Vardoulis asked that a confirmation vote be held after the Nov. 5 election. He will change his vote and oppose Northwood 5 if voters reject two development-related ballot questions, he said. Councilman William A. (Art) Bloomer said he, too, would change his mind if voters oppose the development issues.

The Nov. 5 ballot will contain a measure on whether voters favor the Westpark II project and an advisory question asking whether residents still support the so-called open space agreement with the Irvine Co. That voter-endorsed agreement requires the company, which owns most of the area’s undeveloped land, to give about 9,000 acres to the public in exchange for development rights on other properties.

Vardoulis, Bloomer, Councilman Barry J. Hammond and Mayor Sally Anne Sheridan all said Tuesday that voters cannot justifiably oppose the development of Westpark II if they also support the open space agreement. The Irvine Co. is expected to use the same argument in its campaign to raise voter support for Westpark II.

Werner disagreed with her colleagues. Voters can support the open space agreement but still oppose the Westpark II project, she said. The issues do not go hand in hand, despite what the council majority wants the public to believe, she said.

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Besides council members saying they might later oppose Northwood 5, a 10-year resident of the nearby Northwood community, Meryl Schwartz, told the council Tuesday that she will circulate petitions to place the project on the ballot.

Northwood 5 would include a mix of medium-priced homes along Hicks Canyon Wash with condominiums and apartments built along the future Portola Parkway. A retail center including a supermarket, drugstore and other shops would be built at the future intersection of Portola and a northward extension of Culver Drive.

The community would include a central area with a park, community center and sites reserved for a school, a church and a day-care center. A tree-lined walkway would link the community center to the retail center.

Because of concerns from the city of Tustin over the large project that is 1 mile from its border, the council voted to require the Irvine Co. to study how traffic from Northwood 5 would affect key roads and intersections in the neighboring city. If the study shows Tustin’s traffic would worsen because of the homes and retail center, the Irvine Co. would be required to pay for a “fair share” of the necessary street improvements.

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