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Barham Deal Could Have Been Much Better

September 08, 2002

Re "Orange County Aims to Add to Park System," Aug. 28:

On the surface, having Orange County buy the 566-acre Barham Ranch for $4.2 million of our taxpayers' money sounds like a complete victory for Todd Spitzer and the environmentalists who fought so hard against the developers.

But let's delve into this a little more to see what the county and the environmentalists left on the table during their "skillful" negotiations.

The land is worth much more to a developer today than in the mid-1990s. I am confident that the Orange Unified School District could entertain offers from land developers of more than $15 million for a 300-home development.

If the school district sold the property to a developer with the condition that only 300 homes be developed, and this development had to be concentrated on 70 acres near other developments in the area, while the other 496 acres had to be donated to the county, this would be a real victory for all parties involved.

First, the school district would receive far more money.

Second, the county could take the millions it was going to spend on the land and keep roughly 100 county workers employed for an additional year as opposed to laying them off.

Third, 496 acres would remain open space.

Fourth, this would create needed housing in a county where there is a massive gap between housing supply and housing demand.

What other great deals is Spitzer negotiating with my money?

Joseph K. Fleischaker

Newport Beach

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