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LAGUNA NIGUEL : Panel Rejects Need for New Gate Survey

After three hours of sometimes heated public comment, the city’s Planning Commission concluded this week that a second survey of El Niguel Heights residents on the issue of gating their community will not be necessary.

A March survey showed 76% of El Niguel residents wanted to take control of their streets from the city and build gates at the neighborhood’s two entrances on Club House Drive and Niguel Road. By city ordinance, 75% of a neighborhood’s residents must give the OK before public streets are turned over to a homeowners association and gates are installed.

But some residents said the results were tainted by late and faxed ballots, and that, before the voting period ended, city officials had given a list of names of residents who had not voted yet to advocates of gates. They asked that a second survey be conducted.

With the exception of Commissioner Eli Naffah, the commission rejected that argument, saying the survey was not an official election and thus was not governed by election procedure rules.

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“I feel very confident that 75% within the community want the gates,” Commissioner Marc Winer said. “To make them go through hoops again would not be fair.”

More than 100 residents packed the hearing room Tuesday and spilled over to outside picnic tables, where they listened to the proceedings over two loudspeakers. Many El Niguel Heights residents urged the commission to approve the gates, saying they want to make their community safe from burglars, vandals and speeders.

Gate opponents from within and outside El Niguel Heights told the council that privatization might jeopardize residents’ access to Seminole Park, a public park located within the association.

Some El Niguel Heights homeowners also raised concerns that the city would possibly hand over streets that need substantial repairs.

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