LAGUNA NIGUEL : Plan for Homes on Ridgeline Renewed

Las Vegas casino owner Jack B. Binion is renewing his controversial effort to build estate homes on a valuable ridgeline overlooking South Laguna Beach, although the project has been scaled down.

Instead of the 32 homes he originally planned for the 22-acre parcel at the end of Skyview Way near Badlands Park, Binion is now proposing 22 residences.

"It's smaller--quite a bit smaller," said City Manager Tim Casey.

The City Council on Tuesday night approved taking the first step in evaluating the new proposal. The council agreed to hire the environmental consulting firm of LSA Associates Inc. to prepare a revised environmental impact report for the project. Cost of the report, estimated at between $35,250 and $41,750, will be paid for by Binion.

Binion's representatives have been negotiating with city officials since February to resolve differences that grew acrimonious last year and led Binion to file two lawsuits against the city.

His attorneys agreed to the negotiations after the Planning Commission rejected the 32-home proposal in January. They also agreed to put their lawsuits on hold.

The environmental report is scheduled to be completed in two months. It will be subject to a new round of public comment, Casey said.

The initial project proposal was denied for several reasons, chief among them the need to remove a massive amount of dirt to flatten the area.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are working to qualify a $1.9-billion statewide bond initiative for the November, 1994, ballot that would designate $12 million for the California Coastal Conservancy to attempt to buy about 100 acres of the ridgeline, including the Binion property.

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