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Historic O.C. City's Choice: Small Town vs. Home Depot

April 03, 2002|EVAN HALPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Home Depot hopes to build a store in San Juan Capistrano, and to some officials that looks like a windfall: $9 million for the city-owned land the company wants, a sales-tax bonanza in the future. But hundreds of residents say it would be a disaster.

About 1,800 people signed a petition against the sale, saying it would destroy the character of the town, with its 150-year-old adobes and famous mission.

"If they build this, it will no longer be the same small town," said Trish Hodges, a resident of Capistrano Valley Mobile Estates, which borders the 13 acres Home Depot wants. "Businesses will move out."

More than 100 residents argued with officials into the night Tuesday over the plan to put the 131,000-square-foot store two miles from the historic downtown, with its one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and taverns.

After two hours of public comment, the City Council voted 4 to 1 to proceed with negotiations to sell the property.

In a report commissioned by the city, analysts Alfred Gobar & Associates said the Home Depot would take as much as $9.1 million of annual sales away from 27 small businesses, some of which would go broke.

The study also said the giant home-improvement company is determined to open another store in the area and will do so regardless of whether San Juan Capistrano agrees to sell it the 13 acres on Stonehill Drive near the San Diego Freeway.

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