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Costa Mesa council delays vote on long-discussed Vanguard University master plan until January

Costa Mesa council delays vote on long-discussed Vanguard University master plan until January
A rendering shows how the proposed Vanguard University master plan would affect the layout of the Costa Mesa campus. The white buildings currently exist; proposed new buildings are in blue. (Courtesy of Vanguard University)

Vanguard University’s new campus master plan is again in limbo after the Costa Mesa City Council opted Tuesday to hold off determining its fate until January.

The 3-2 vote — with Mayor Sandy Genis and Councilman Jim Righeimer opposed — marks the latest delay for the document, which has been slowly winding its way through the city review process the past six months.

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Pushing consideration of the matter to next year means a new slate of council members elected last week will have the ultimate say on whether to approve the plan, which would reshape Vanguard’s 38-acre campus at 55 Fair Drive and is intended to accommodate future enrollment growth.

“This is a significant project,” Councilwoman Katrina Foley said. “I think we all want to find a solution; we all want to find a win-win. ... In my opinion, a continuance is more likely than not to lead to a win-win.”

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From Vanguard’s perspective, though, the last thing the process needs is another holdup.

“That would be our fourth or fifth continuance, “ said Michael Beals, president of the private Christian university. “We’ve done the work and we’ve presented the plan. What we’re asking for is a vote on the plan.”

The city Planning Commission approved the master plan last month. However, Genis asked the council to look at it, citing concerns about the possible effects on nearby residents.

Though the plan outlines 12 separate projects — including adding a four-level parking structure along Newport Boulevard and a 300-bed dormitory building and replacing the gymnasium and science, technology, engineering, math and kinesiology facilities — the component that has consistently been a millstone around its neck is the planned relocation of the maintenance and operations facility to the southwest corner of the campus.

For months, that proposal has pitted the university against its neighbors in the Monticello and Newport Landing communities off Vanguard Way.

Some residents say the facility would spoil their views, draw additional dangerous truck traffic near their homes, create disruptive noise and potentially harm their property values.

Vanguard officials, however, say they’ve reworked the proposed facility to address those concerns — agreeing to set it farther back from the property line, limit its height to 22 feet, plant additional landscaping for screening and restrict outside noise-generating work to weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Throughout Tuesday’s meeting, the council peppered Beals with questions about other potential locations for the facility and whether Vanguard would be willing to further tweak the master plan to accommodate such a move.

Beals responded that those kinds of changes likely would force the university to redesign the entire plan.

“There is no second-best option here that makes the master plan work,” he said. “Moving the M&O facility makes the project unsafe or infeasible because of the layout of the different facilities that we have.”

Vanguard representatives said they did examine alternatives but eventually determined the original proposed location was the best option, as building it elsewhere could result in a loss of parking, create problems with on-campus vehicle circulation and safety or force the costly relocation of existing facilities.

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