A review of priorities for a city commission which oversees open space turned into an opportunity to discuss the city’s sometimes-maligned deal to purchase the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park.
After several residents complained too many conditions in the 2010 sales agreement work against San Juan Capistrano residents, the City Council agreed to take a closer look at the contract’s clauses.
Newest Councilman Roy Brynes – who campaigned on renegotiating the purchase with the original owner, the Rancho Mission Viejo company now building its last development just east of San Juan Capistrano – said his motion was only to simply list what the city’s restrictions are.
However, his ultimate purpose, he said could open the door to new talks with the ranch.
“The fact that some dubious conditions were snuck into the contract four years ago doesn’t mean we have to accept them,” he said.
Councilman Sam Allevato, the only sitting councilman who was a party to the agreement, abstained from the vote. But he said he had his doubts.
“Generally the seller and buyer don’t normally renegotiate four years after a transaction,” he said.
Five residents, including those behind the recent “banner wars” protest of a group also involved with the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park purchase, spoke in favor of the council taking a fresh look at the contract.
Among the restrictions they disparaged were:
- Limiting the public’s use of the riding park to only a handful number of times a year
- The construction of a park that will serve Rancho Mission Viejo residents more than San Juan Capistrano residents
- The fact that the city cannot hold its own rodeo on the site for 50 years
- An agreement that the city cannot challenge the impacts of Rancho Mission Viejo development, which will place 14,000 new homes and millions of square feet of retail and commercial space off Ortega Highway.
“No more sweetheart deals,” said Melissa Kaffen, who ran for City Council but dropped out before Election Day. “It’s time for our City Council to make our wallets and our quality of life a priority.”
Councilman Derek Reeve said he’s hoping a closer look at the contract will ultimately put the controversy to rest.
“Maybe they’d [ranch officials} be interested in listening to some changes,” Reeve said, “just for goodwill, to put this behind us. For me, I want to look to the future.'
Councilman Larry Kramer cast the go-ahead vote.
“I’m enough in favor to go ahead, and let’s try it,” he said.