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Orange County

High-End Silverado Homes OKd

County supervisors aren't swayed by foes' arguments that the plan for 12 mansions on Holtz Ranch would harm the environment.

August 20, 2003|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected arguments that a dozen mansions proposed for a former turkey ranch in rustic Silverado Canyon would significantly damage the area's environment and unanimously approved the controversial project.

The decision marked an important victory for Las Vegas-based developer Marnell Corrao Associates, which bought the 320-acre Holtz Ranch in 1999 and submitted plans last year to turn 69 acres of it into a high-end community of "equestrian estates."

The developer was cautious Tuesday, however, saying that no date had been set for groundbreaking because of possible legal challenges.

Opponents say the homes, some as large as 12,000 square feet, will be an eyesore and deface the ranch's scenic hillsides. They have pledged to sue on environmental and other grounds.

"We will ride this thing till the end," said Renee LeClaire-Wortman, a canyon resident and one of several who appealed June's Planning Commission approval of the project to the Board of Supervisors.

"One thing about us canyon people is that we are plodders."

LeClaire-Wortman said she did not attend Tuesday's board meeting because she predicted defeat and was afraid she would become too emotional.

About a dozen other canyon residents did attend. Their opinions varied.

Some favored the project because of its low density and praised the developer for committing 46 acres next to the project as permanent open space.

Supervisor Bill Campbell, who represents the area, said that the developer could have opted for many more homes and that the fewer units "better fits the rural nature of Silverado."

But others said that despite the small number of homes proposed, the lots are so big that the developer would have to bulldoze the hills to accommodate them.

There are also disputes over whether the ranch is a significant Native American archeological site.

Development projects are always controversial, Supervisor Chris Norby acknowledged before the 5-0 vote but are much more so in the canyons because they remain one of few links to the county's past.

"I still remember what Orange County once was," he said, "and in the canyons much of the way it was is still the way it is."

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