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162 Orange County Homes OKd Over Pleas for 493 Doomed Trees

Scores of residents, as well as county supervisor candidates for that district, say the unfilled seat makes the approval unfair.

January 29, 2003|Janet Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Rejecting pleas by scores of area residents and candidates for the vacant 3rd District seat, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved two housing developments at the county's rural eastern edge that will require the destruction of nearly 500 mature live oaks and other trees.

Because the development is in the 3rd District and an election to fill the seat was also held Tuesday, candidates Bill Campbell and Jim Potts asked that board put off its vote.

"Where is our representation?" said Sandra Esposito, a longtime Trabuco Canyon resident. "I am not against development, but it needs to be development that complies with the surrounding community and its rural character."

But board Chairman Tom Wilson, who represents the 5th District, said he has also covered the 3rd District since Todd Spitzer resigned after being elected to the state Assembly.

"You are represented," said Wilson, who added that he had spent months reviewing the project. "I am satisfied that [the developers] dotted their i's and crossed their t's."

The Saddle Creek and Saddle Crest tracts will total 162 homes on 593 acres along Live Oak Canyon and Santiago Canyon roads, near the Cleveland National Forest.

Dave Eadie, chief executive of Rutter Development Co. of Irvine, which applied for the approvals, said the project had been through two years of scrutiny by county officials.

The supervisors "did their homework and made a reasoned and fair decision. It's taken a long time," he said. He declined to say when construction might begin, noting that the next phase is to apply for specific site approvals.

The board approved 14 pages' worth of zoning amendments, including the felling of 493 oaks and sycamores and significant grading of steep hillsides. An additional 543 trees could be damaged.

The developer has offered to plant 11,000 acorns, seedlings and smaller trees, set aside 70% of the site as open space and dedicate 300 open-space acres elsewhere in the county. Arborists say seedlings are poor substitutes for centuries-old trees.

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