Road project gets time extension

The owner of property on Ceanothus Drive in South Laguna will have at least two more years to extend a road and meet other conditions set by the city on his project.

Approval of the time extension by the City Council on Tuesday came after the verification of property owner Coast Royale LLC's offer of an easement that would allow the city to move ahead on the construction of a turn-around and parking area improvements on Ceanothus.

"We are just extending what we already agreed to, with the pot sweetened a little," Councilwoman Jane Egly said.

The council voted 3-1 to approve the extension. Councilwoman Verna Rollinger abstained because she had not participated in previous discussions.

Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman voted against the time extension time, opining that the project should go back to the drawing board. Specifically Iseman objected to the amount of grading that would be troublesome for neighbors and the number of truckloads of exported dirt, which she said would pollute the air and tie up traffic.

Project architect Kirk Saunders countered that the owner's reduction of the five legal building sites on his parcel to four lots reduced the grading by more 70% and decreased truck trips on Ceanothus.

A staff report submitted to the council at the June 3, 2008, when the project was approved, advised that because the lots were legal building sites and conformed to the South Coast Air Quality Management District's plan the project did not have significant impacts.

Iseman said then she thought the project required an environmental impact report, rather than a mitigated negative declaration, and on Tuesday that advanced technology should be applied to the project to determine the impacts.

The approved project for four building sites with access from a new street rather than directly off of Ceanothus included a variance to improve the redesigned roadway with a reduced grade; encroachment into a significant water course with fuel modification, drainage and access improvements.

One house has been approved by the Design Review Board on the largest of the four road extension sites. The 5,100 square-foot house will cover an estimated 7.1% of the 4-acre lot.

South Laguna resident Gary Baker objected to the size of the project, the impact on neighbors and the length of time needed to complete it.

No construction on the home will be allowed until the road extension entitlements are in place and environmental mitigation is satisfied.

The property owner submitted a request for extension of time for the roadwork and associated permits on June 2, claiming that more time was needed due to the scarcity of credit for construction projects.

Laguna's municipal code stipulates that decisions by the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board are granted an initial two-year period. The approval may be extended for an additional two years and one final year, five years in all.

While the code does not specify the time limits for a road extension, other discretionary decisions have been approved in the past by the council for such projects.

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