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Council Considers a Temporary Halt to Canyon Development

A public hearing to discuss a possible moratorium on development projects in Laguna Canyon, originally scheduled for a special City Council meeting to be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, will likely now take place Tuesday, June 3, the city manager says.

Any so-called urgency ordinance would require a four-fifths Council vote and would be effective for 45 days, but could be extended for up to two years.

The much debated view ordinance and discussion of the city’s unfunded liability remain on Thursday’s agenda.

Concerns over a burst of development projects in Laguna Canyon prompted the City Council to suggest a temporary halt to new projects until apparent zoning discrepancies can be ironed out and a cohesive plan mapped out. The Council asked city staff on May 6 to investigate a development moratorium and come up with suggestions.

Basically, the city can only enact an urgency ordinance imposing a development moratorium if city officials find “a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare” that would result if development permits were to be approved.

Three tentative options to be considered only as “general examples for discussion” are in the staff report, The options include: an ordinance prohibiting development in the areas zoned for light industrial and institutional uses for up to two years; prohibition of development on properties fronting Laguna Canyon Road between El Toro Road and Woodland Drive, the street bordering the Sawdust Festival frontage road; and public Planning Commission workshops to address canyon zoning regulations.

Should any moratorium be imposed, certain development could be excluded such as remediation measures, tenant improvements, and rehabilitation of existing structures, the staff report notes.

A listing of projects – pending, proposed or even envisioned — is included with the staff report. The extensive list covers everything from the approved artists’ work/live project and the proposed permanent supportive housing project, to solar panels on the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a shade structure at the dog park and remediation of the burn dump.

Most complaints over canyon development centered on recently approved or proposed projects that some residents find incompatible with the “small scale” and “rural character” of Laguna Canyon, especially in areas covered by the Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan, the staff report noted.

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