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Bolsa Chica Delay Sought

Developer asks state to postpone a hearing after the agency's staff urges the project be rejected.

August 09, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

A developer has asked the California Coastal Commission to postpone a Thursday hearing on its proposal to build 379 homes on a mesa overlooking the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach after the agency's staff recommended the development be rejected.

The recommendation could scotch an agreement to sell 103.2 acres of the mesa to the state for conservation, said Raymond Pacini, chief executive officer of California Coastal Communities Inc. in Irvine, which owns the land. According to Pacini, the company won't agree to the deal unless the Brightwater housing development on the other half of the mesa is approved.

But Flossie Horgan, executive director of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, a private group founded to protect the area, said the 58-page purchase agreement does not mention the housing development. The commission's voting members do not have to follow the recommendation.

The California Wildlife Conservation Board and California Coastal Communities have been negotiating since 2002, the year state voters approved Proposition 50, which made $750 million available for conservation efforts statewide, including the purchase of the Bolsa Chica land.

In 2002, the Orange County Planning Commission approved the plan to develop the upper mesa.

In late June, state officials announced that California Coastal Communities had agreed to sell it the land for $65 million.

Horgan and land trust President Gerald Chapman said the developer was wise to postpone the hearing, giving the company time to address the concerns raised in the report.

The Wildlife Conservation board will vote on the purchase agreement Thursday, and the developer has asked that its proposal for the Brightwater development be placed on the coastal commission's October agenda.

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