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Suit to Block Development Settled

Mission Viejo agrees to a deal that will improve roads and ease traffic created by the Rancho Mission Viejo project.

June 08, 2005|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

A lawsuit seeking to block development of Rancho Mission Viejo was settled Tuesday, removing one of the legal challenges to building about 14,000 homes and 380 acres of commercial space on the last remaining large swath of private land in Orange County.

The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court by the city of Mission Viejo after the county approved the project last year, took issue with how the county planned to deal with increased traffic resulting from the controversial development.

Mission Viejo, northwest of the project, is expected to receive the brunt of traffic going in and out of the development.

Under the settlement's terms, the county promised to give priority to improving roads that would be most impacted by the project, including widening intersections at Oso and Marguerite parkways, and Crown Valley and Marguerite parkways.

Other projects not directly affected by Rancho Mission Viejo's plan, such as a proposed interchange on Saddleback Road, will wait for future funding under terms of the settlement.

But the agreement does not increase Mission Viejo's share of county road improvement funds, currently about $13 million.

"We are very pleased we have reached an agreement that will avoid litigation," said Mission Viejo Mayor Patricia Kelley.

The City Council approved the settlement Monday; the county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to accept it. The developer, a defendant in the lawsuit, also agreed to the terms.

Rancho Mission Viejo will still contribute $144 million to the county's transportation improvement fund as a condition of winning approval to build.

The project, which will leave about a third of the 23,000-acre property as open space, has attracted intense public scrutiny since it was proposed more than a decade ago.

Neighboring cities complained about added traffic and pollution the development would bring, while environmentalists voiced concerns about ecologically sensitive areas within the ranch land.

A lawsuit filed by conservation groups that challenges the developer's environmental impact study is pending.

"Clearly, we are pleased that Mission Viejo has reached its agreement," said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League. "But the city's settlement does not mean that all the issues have been resolved."

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