The Newport Beach Planning Commission chairman resigned this week, citing his reluctance to begin deliberations on the Banning Ranch project.
Charles Unsworth, in his resignation letter to the City Council, said he doesn't plan to seek reappointment when his four-year term expires next year, so stepping aside now would allow someone to participate fully as Banning Ranch's application progresses.
His resignation comes after the council recently overturned two of the commission's decisions, and some commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with those appeals.
Unsworth was unreachable Thursday for comment.
A lawyer by trade, he ran hearings with precision, his colleagues said.
"He was very patient, methodical and well thought-out. I'm going to miss him," said Commissioner Mike Toerge, who will take over as chairman.
To fill the vacant seat, the council will soon ask for applications. An ad-hoc committee of council members will recommend at least two people, who will then be subjected to a vote by the entire council. Clerk Leilani Brown expects the council to appoint a new commissioner by January.
By that time, the commission may have received the final environmental impact report for Banning Ranch, according to Planning Manager Patrick Alford. Already, the commissioners have toured the property, received the draft EIR, and held a study session.
But it is still "very early in the process," Commissioner Brad Hillgren said.