REVIEW BOARD TO HEAR PROPOSAL FOR 203 HOUSES ON TRABUCO CREEK
Speculator RSM Properties will present its proposal for a 203-unit housing tract, "Robinson Ridge," at a 7 p.m. public hearing of the Foothill Trabuco Specific Plan Review Board on Friday, November 14, at O'Neill Regional Park. The 89-acre site, which lies in unincorporated Orange County atop a steep bluff rising 200 feet above the Arroyo Trabuco on the edge of the Plano Trabuco, is currently being used as a wholesale nursery.
An initial study released by the county concluded that an environmental impact report would be needed. The houses will be built on 60 acres of farmland treated for decades with toxic fertilizers and pesticides. The project may also impact native American artifacts on the site, further pollute the water in Trabuco Creek, create visual blight, and congest traffic by generating over 2,000 daily vehicle trips.
Although county supervisors will ultimately approve the project, the site lies immediately adjacent to the incorporated city of Rancho Santa Margarita, which may ultimately annex the completed development. In addition to approval of the 203 houses, the applicant is requesting a development agreement from the county. Under state law, development agreements give developers a "vested right" to complete their projects as approved, and must be honored by cities later annexing the land. In the 1980s and 1990s, the developer-controlled County of Orange signed numerous development agreements to thwart local annexations and incorporations.
The five-member Foothill/Trabuco Specific Plan (FTSP) Review Board reviews development proposals within the Trabuco Canyon area for compliance with the FTSP, a master plan enacted by county supervisors in 1991 to protect the area's rural character and scenic natural resources. The FTSP contains a "phasing component" intended to delay development until necessary roads are constructed or widened. The Robinson Ridge proposal for 203 houses all taking access from Trabuco Canyon Road may have run afoul of the FTSP phasing component, which provides that no more than 171 houses may be constructed on the nursery sites until Trabuco Canyon Road is closed on the Plano Trabuco and connected to Antonio Parkway. As with past projects, however, county officials may try to "bend the rules" to circumvent this requirement. Maps and diagrams attached to the initial study were prepared by PBR, the same planning firm that pushed through the 162-unit Saddle Crest/Creek tracts involving a 14-page amendment of the FTSP. e.