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Preview: Housing Developments on Tap

City staff and developers offered a look Tuesday at two proposed projects: a 75-acre retirement community and a 20.6-acre housing development.

A 75-acre retirement community and 29 new homes could be heading to San Juan Capistrano on two different ends of town.

Developers and city staff gave the Planning Commission a preview Tuesday of proposed upcoming developments at the Oaks and Rancho Capistrano. Commissioners said both projects could use some spit-polishing.

The Oaks

Home builder Shea Homes hopes to divide the 20.6-acre property at 31000 Avenida Siega along Ortega Highway between residential space and open space. Called the Oaks Farm, the property currently serves as a horse-jumping, training and breeding facility founded and owned by Joan Irvine Smith, the great granddaughter of Orange County pioneer James Irvine.

Even though the property is already designated for homes and open space, where the homes and the open space would ultimately end up would shift from the current configuration.

According to the conceptual drawings presented Tuesday, 29 homes would sit in the southwestern portion, and the open space area would rest in the north-eastern portion. (Click the image at the top right of this story for a closer look at the before and after maps.)

City staff has said that the changes would require a vote of people. A ballot initiative approved in 2008, Measure X, requires that any changes to land designated as open space in the city’s General Plan be approved by voters.

The discussion was not a public hearing but merely a work session on the project.

Shea Homes plans to “preserve the equestrian center” on site, according to city staff.

Commissioners had a number of concerns about the project proposal, including how near the houses would be situated to the equestrian trail and San Juan Creek.

“I think anything you can do to mitigate the impact of those houses … would be helpful,” said Commissioner Ginny Kerr.

Commission Chairperson Robert Williams said he agreed with the other commissioner's concerns.

“This has to be something special if I’m going to approve it,” Williams said.

After the discussion, John Vander Velde, vice president of Shea Homes, said that he’d need more time to think about the commission’s comments before responding.

Rancho Capistrano

Continuing Life Communities plans to build a 75-acre retirement community on the 170-acre property known as Rancho Capistrano on the north side of town.

Formerly owned by , the property now belongs to of Lake Forest and sits west of Camino Capistrano, about 1.2 miles north of Junipero Serra Road.

According to a company representative, Continuing Life plans to break up the land into smaller sections.

The sections would include the proposed retirement community, called the Orchards (which would take up 44 percent of the land), 71 acres of open space (42 percent), the existing 20-acre spiritual retreat center (12 percent) and a 4-acre space for automotive sales (2 percent).

Commissioners said they were concerned that the buildings in the conceptual design were too close together.

Commissioner Roy Nunn said that he was disappointed that the new plan would not incorporate soccer fields whic have long been used by the community.

“I am a soccer person here, and I used to be the field director for AYSO,” Nunn said. “I hope that someday it gets worked out, where we don’t lose all those fields.”

Troy Bourne, vice president at Continuing Life, said his company plans to work with the city to develop a project that everyone will favor.

“One of the commissioners said if we’re going to approve something here in in this town, it’s going to have to be knock-your-socks-off,” Bourne said. “We agree. That’s what we do. If we didn’t think we could do that in San Juan Capistrano, we wouldn’t be proposing anything on the site.”

Bourne said he hopes to bring an update on the project to the commission within a few months.

The next Planning Commission meeting takes place 6:30 p.m. June 26 in at 32400 Paseo Adelanto.

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