The Costa Mesa City Council on Wednesday approved a new general plan amendment that would allow C.J. Segerstrom & Sons to proceed with a scaled-down plan for its controversial Home Ranch development even if an upcoming citywide vote rejects a larger version of the project.
In an unusual session called to consider various Home Ranch issues, the council also voted to put a referendum on the larger version of the 94-acre project on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. That ballot will also include a slow-growth initiative that would tie future development in the city to improvements in roads and other public services.
If city voters turn down the 3.1-million-square-foot version of Home Ranch, then the smaller, 2.2-million-square-foot version could proceed as a result of the council's 4-1 vote Wednesday night.
Councilman David Wheeler opposed the council majority.
"This flies in the face of the referendum process," Wheeler said of the new general plan amendment. "The correct way to proceed is to determine first what the people want."
The Home Ranch property, situated on farmland bounded by the San Diego Freeway, Fairview Road, Harbor Boulevard and Sunflower Avenue, has been the main issue of contention for the city's slow-growth advocates.
The larger version of Home Ranch, a $400-million complex to include office space, shops, a hotel, a health club and a child care center, was approved in February, also on 4-1 vote, by the City Council.
A slow-growth group that has opposed the project, Costa Mesa Residents for Responsible Growth, then gathered enough signatures to force a citywide vote.
The scaled-down version would still include two large office towers, one more than 350 feet high that would house facilities of IBM.
Jay Humphrey, a spokesman for the citizens group, said the group was considering circulating a second petition for a referendum to overturn the council's vote.
"While we're pleased that Segerstrom has responded in part to the community's need," he said, speaking of the scaled-down project, "there's still work to be done."