The build-out of 's campus on Oso Road was dealt a setback Tuesday.
The San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission said , generally following the alignment of Trabuco Creek.
Saddleback Valley Christian is asking for approval of plans that in the interim would locate the trail on the outskirts of its campus, abutting its athletic fields. In the future, it would like to rebuild the existing trail directly atop the creek embankment, which collapsed in the , forcing the trail's closure.
The trail is a key connector into the and is a trigger for allowing the school to construct new classrooms and a gym. "We need that trail," said Grant Taylor, the city's director of development.
The commission said it would like the interim solution to become the permanent one.
Additionally, the school's plans for the interim trail, the commission said, are lacking key engineering details, which they believe will render it unstable. So it voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone a decision about whether the school should be allowed to start erecting the new buildings.
"I don't have any faith in this trail," said chairman Sheldon Cohen. "And I don't mean any disrespect to anyone; it's the location of the trail."
Permission to rebuild the existing embankment there must come from the state Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Putting the trail there for the long term would keep the trail off of the school's campus, giving student athletes more room to practice.
"I'm really skeptical about whether the school will get approval from the regulatory agencies," said Commissioner Ginny Kerr. "It seems like a long shot."
Kerr explained that the embankment is cracking and would thus require substantial grading work. Shifting the dirt around would mean the school would have to rip out vegetation on the creek bed, a move that she predicted would not please the Department of Fish and Game.
She, and the other commissioners, wants plans in place to ensure a permanent trail is actually built.
Taylor said it the city attorney's opinion that the school is currently in contempt of court because it is not following through on its end of a 2005 agreement to keep a trail on its property. "They're not following through on their obligation."
But the school's architect, Terry D. Jacobson, said the city's lengthy review process is causing "a great hardship," as funding for the construction is contingent upon certain timing milestones.
"We have to move this project forwarding," he said. "We are anxious to get this project built."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named the chairman of the Planning Commission.