The County Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a plan to relocate or destroy hundreds of trees--some more than 300 years old--to make way for new homes just north of Lake Forest.
The plan, prepared for the Foothill Ranch planned community, set a benchmark for future development, Commissioner C. Douglas Leavenworth said. Commissioners said they may refer to it again as housing developments continue to creep into the forested foothills.
"This is a precedent," Leavenworth said. "There is no question this establishes a whole new business in the foothills."
Under the Resource Management Plan, about 600 trees will be relocated and about 1,800 will be destroyed to make room for about 3,900 new homes. The Hon Development Co. said another 2,500 trees will be preserved, many in a 262-acre tract that will be maintained as open space.
A special monitor must be present during the work to ensure that the trees are preserved according to the county's orders, the commission decided. The monitor will be a county employee, whose full-time salary will be reimbursed by the developer.
The agreement was worked out over several months of negotiations that included the county, the developer and opponents of the plan, most notably Sherry Meddick of the Rural Canyons Conservation Fund. On Tuesday, commissioners praised Meddick, and joked about naming an oak tree after her.
"Ms. Meddick went well beyond the call of duty," said Thomas Moody, chairman of the commission. "There should be some kind of record out there for your diligence. The public of Orange County will appreciate this."