Dana Point : Board Votes to Buy Parcel on Hillside

The Capistrano Bay Park and Recreation District board of directors agreed this week to pay $625,000 for a four-acre parcel on a steep hillside along Stonehill Drive.

The board voted 4 to 1 Thursday night to purchase the property from Laguna Hills-based Hon Development, which had planned to use the site for a retirement center. Questions about easements will delay final action for two weeks, however.

Director Mike Reed voted no, contending the property wasn't worth the price and that the district could have negotiated to get it cheaper. He favored getting another appraisal.

"This is simply a steep bank going down to a four-lane road," Reed said. "In my opinion, the Hon company would have had to give up the property anyway." He said he wanted to take another look at the land's assessed value, "especially in light of the recent gnatcatcher problems."

The property, which lies on the west side of the intersection of Stonehill Drive and Selva Road, contains coastal sage scrub, a mix of native plants that serves as habitat for the gnatcatcher. The bird has been nominated for listing as an endangered species and its habitat is the focal point of debate between environmentalists and developers.

"I'm very concerned with getting parkland for Dana Point, but I want to get the most value for our constituents," Reed said.

Director Lynn J. Muir, one of the chief proponents of the purchase, called the parcel "a spectacular site."

Director Bob Wilberg agreed, saying he wanted to buy the property now and leave it undeveloped. "My preference would be to leave it the way it is, as an open green area, with minimal development. Maybe a couple of trails and a gazebo, something like that."

The park district has appropriated $6 million this year for parkland purchases, and is negotiating five other land purchases within the city limits.

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