LAGUNA NIGUEL : Planners OK Gates at El Niguel Heights

Under the watchful eyes of about 60 impassioned residents, the Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved allowing El Niguel Heights to become a gated community.

Commissioners also recommended letting non-residents through the gates during daylight hours to use the public Seminole Park.

The gates and the turnover of 22 city streets to the El Niguel Heights Homeowners' Assn. must still be approved by the City Council.

Residents who have urged privatization for years applauded the commission's decision.

"It's time to just do it," Donald Kent said. "Privatize El Niguel Heights."

Although Commissioner Robert Healey voted for the gates at Augusta Drive and Niguel Road and at Glen Abby and Club House drives, he said he doesn't like seeing Laguna Niguel residents "running away from the problems of society by locking them out."

"I don't believe in people shutting themselves off from the rest of the community," Healey said. "But it is not government's right to protect people from their own folly."

The association had wanted access to the park provided only at the Augusta Drive gate, which will be controlled by a guard. A commission majority, though, recommended installing a park access push button at both gates so pedestrians and drivers can let themselves past the gates.

Three out of four homeowners in El Niguel Heights had voted for privatization, saying they hope gates will keep out thieves, speeders and vandals.

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