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Zoning Mistake

July 03, 1988

On June 24, you ran an article on the Orange County Grand Jury's finding that the county has made a mistake in the zoning of Country Village Planned Community. The owner of this property is Shapell Industries of Beverly Hills.

As one of the complainants to the jury, I know the issue is complex and confusing. Considering the varying dates and amount of statistics involved, your reporter did an excellent job. However, I would like to clarify a couple of points.

In November, 1987, Laguna Niguel residents appealed the Planning Commission's decision to the Board of Supervisors. Your paper inadvertently reported that we had appealed to the Planning Commission.

Country Village Planned Community is a 1,232-acre development. The area in dispute is a 103-acre unit of that planned community. The 41 acres of unbroken, natural hills along Alicia Parkway, zoned as open space since the 1970s, have always been the focus of community concerns. Our fight to retain a small measure of the rapidly disappearing natural terrain of Laguna Niguel has been long and hard. Inexperienced at land-use planning, we spent some time figuring out that a major error had occurred in zoning approvals. On several occasions we asked Environmental Management Agency staff to explain why the zoning didn't look right to us. We were always told that the Planning Commission had approved the zone change in 1986.

Eventually the picture became clear, and Tony Burt, also a complainant to the grand jury, brought the matter to the supervisors' attention at a public hearing in November, 1987. Robert Fisher of the Environmental Management Agency then responded with statements that are contrary to our perception of the situation and contrary to statements made at the 1986 public hearings.

I feel gratified that the grand jury seriously listened to our concerns, investigated the matter and asked the county to rectify the mistake. Equally, I am appalled that citizens are forced to take extraordinary measures to gain a response from some of Orange County's elected officials and public employees.

CINDY O'NEAL

Laguna Niguel

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