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Public voices views on Victory Walk

Hostility was in the air Tuesday when owners, neighbors and city

officials voiced various opinions about a construction project on

Victory Walk.

At a special public hearing, City Council members considered

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whether to initiate revocation proceedings of the Design Review

approval for the project, which has had a stop work order on it.

Council members decided to lift the order while the property

owners agreed to replace three injured Eucalyptus trees.

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Toni Iseman, Paul Freeman, Steve Dicterow and Cheryl Kinsman were

present. Mayor Wayne Baglin was absent.

Based on a recommendation from the city arborist, the city had

authorized the property owners, Bill and Claudia Hardy to remove two

damaged Red Gum Eucalyptus trees. However, when it was discovered

that a third tree had lost as much as 75% of its root system due to

excavation and grading work, the city placed a stop-work order on the

project.

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“We want the council to have the Design Review Board reopen the

approval of the design if we are to save any of the remaining grove,”

neighbor Sharon Risley said in a phone interview.

Risley claimed that the property owners did not hire an arborist

to monitor construction and that the project designer, Greg Abel

assured the city that the house would fit in and around the trees so

that none would be compromised.

“Basically the property owner said ‘oops’ after the damage was

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done,” she said.

“We really feel the property owner was responsible for the damage

done to the trees,” she said.

About 20 neighbors, who have voiced their concerns since the

project began in 1999, were in attendance.

“We have a written agreement with the owner that calls for him to

replace three trees with 15-gallon sized plants,” City Manager Ken

Frank said.

The agreement also stipulated that Hardy must hire a certified

arborist to supervise future excavation and grading activities and

ensure the health of the remaining trees on the site.

Hardy not only agreed to those conditions, but also apologized for

the damage caused to the trees. However, he spoke out against the

neighbors whom he claims have fought him and his wife since the

beginning in their effort to build their dream home.

“We won’t give up,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I takes and I will

build my house.”

After the council clarified that Hardy would have to replace the

trees with Eucalypti -- unless they wanted to return to Design Review

-- it voted 4-0 to lift the stop-work order.

Hardy agreed to have his design team meet with city staff as soon

as possible.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know what my house looks like,”

Claudia Hardy said of the process. “But I’m still happy that I’m

going to live in Laguna.”

-- Mary A. Castillo


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