SANTA ANA — A controversial proposal to allow 705 mobile homes on wooded hillsides near Trabuco Canyon took a major step forward Tuesday, when the Board of Supervisors certified an environmental study for the project.
But even as they acted on the 20-year-old Saddleback Meadows proposal, supervisors said they hoped the project is never built. They urged the developer and opponents to negotiate an agreement for a smaller development on the land.
"I have no choice but to vote to certify the [study], but I'd . . . like to see some sort of resolution to this problem, some middle ground," Supervisor Charles V. Smith said.
The board voted 2 to 2. Supervisor Jim Silva, who two years ago accepted contributions from lobbyists on both sides of the issue, abstained. Three votes were needed to override an earlier Planning Commission decision to approve the environmental impact report.
A representative of the developer, Aradi Inc., said that with the environmental study approved, Aradi this week will apply for grading permits to move 11.5 million cubic yards of dirt for the mobile home park.
But the representative, Frank Elfend, said the developer has also agreed to meet with opponents of the proposed project, who have sought to convince Aradi to scale back the development.
This month, a Roman Catholic abbey whose land borders the site of the proposed mobile home park offered Aradi $5.2 million to whittle its plan to 200 homes, none of them mobile. Lawyers for Aradi said that is not enough and that they need to build at least 299 homes to make money off the project.
"We are hopeful that we can work with this group to forge some acquisition agreement or variation thereof," Elfend said.
Elfend said Aradi has spent about $6.5 million on the property, including the purchase price and improvements, making it too large an investment to walk away from.