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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Senior Center Plan Draws Opposition

A proposed care center for senior citizens, an integral part of a religious center being developed by the Schuller Ministries on a ranch at the city’s northern border, has drawn the ire of a local preservationist group.

Mark Clancey, president of Friends of Historic San Juan Capistrano, claims the three-story care center is too large and obtrusive for its rural location on the 94-acre Rancho Capistrano at the entrance to the city. Clancey is expected to voice his concerns this afternoon before the county Planning Commission.

“It’s massive, and it would be a stark departure from what we have been accustomed to here in the Capistrano Valley,” Clancey said Monday. “It exceeds the city of San Juan Capistrano’s standards by one story and 10 feet.”

The 356-unit, 13-acre care facility is only one part of a larger project to be spread over the Rancho Capistrano grounds. Other components include an administration building, cemetery, mortuary/chapel, mausoleum and a maintenance building.

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The proposed construction at Rancho Capistrano would be the first major change to the ranch since it was donated to the Crystal Cathedral Ministries by the John Crean family in 1982. The ranch is currently the home of the Rancho Capistrano Community Church and sits on an island of unincorporated land surrounded by San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel and Mission Viejo.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries added to its South County holdings in 1989 when it bought the 77-acre Bathgate Ranch, which sits inside the San Juan Capistrano city limits, adjacent to Rancho Capistrano. The cemetery, mortuary/chapel and mausoleum portions of the project have been planned for the Bathgate Ranch parcel.

Clancey maintains that the new development overwhelms the rural feeling of the city’s northern border, an atmosphere the city of San Juan Capistrano is spending millions to preserve. The city is in the midst of a $6.95-million purchase of the 42-acre Swanner Ranch, adjacent to Rancho Capistrano.

“We refer to that area as the gateway to San Juan Capistrano. Most people here have an emotional connection to that property,” Clancey said.

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Clancey also suggested that the county should not continue to break the project into parts for approval, but should require an environmental impact report on the master plan.

Thomas Tomlinson, San Juan Capistrano’s planning director, said he and the city’s Planning Commission had reviewed plans for the project and, while they approved proposed uses for the property, they were concerned about the “building massing as it appears along Camino Capistrano,” the road that enters the city.


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