Trading spaces




Dear Editor:
As president of the Mabury Ranch Homeowners Association, I would like to share the views of our board and homeowners regarding the proposed development of the Sully-Miller property. Over the past two and one-half years, we have been working with a collaborative group that includes representatives of Orange Park Acres and The Reserve. The goal of this group has been to meet with the owner of the Sully-Miller property, Milan Capital, to find an acceptable plan for the site.

Because of the collaborative efforts of the group, Milan has proposed to build 128 homes (down from 150), with lot sizes ranging from 8,000-10,000 square feet on 40 acres of the site. The other approximately 69 acres of the site would be open space with public access, an extension of Santiago Oaks Park. Milan has agreed to spend $1 million on trails for this area, along with $4.1 million to restore the Santiago Creek Greenway. 

Part of this open space is the land north of Santiago Creek and adjacent to Mabury Ave., currently zoned R-1-8. Eliminating this area from development has been a long-standing goal of Mabury Ranch. Another much sought-after goal has been a permanent home for the Mara Brandman Arena. Milan has offered $2 million to relocate the arena to the Ridgeline site, and also offered to dedicate Ridgeline for public recreational use, perhaps in partnership with the City of Orange.

Milan also will provide $1 million in traffic improvements, despite adding less than one percent to the current traffic volume, double the amount required to pay to mitigate any traffic impacts from their project.  

This project also will end, forever, the noise and dust pollution from the concrete recycling operations. The eyesore that it is will be gone.

On the other hand, if a project is not agreed to for these 40 acres, the worst-case scenario could happen. The arena site could be leveled, and homes built there with no arena to replace it. The land adjacent to Mabury Ranch could be developed with as many as 40 homes and the accompanying traffic.  And the concrete recycling operation could be restarted.  

While no project is perfect, we believe this one meets Mabury Ranch’s objectives and delivers value to our surrounding communities. The Mabury Ranch HOA Board has voted to support the project, and has directed the representatives to continue to work on the DEIR and traffic mitigation to bring the development plan to conclusion. In a recent survey of our homeowners, 65 percent of the respondents support the project as outlined above.  

Dick Hollinger
President, Mabury Ranch HOA Board of Directors

Dear Editor:
For a number of years, developer Milan Capital has attempted to obtain approval of housing developments on various parcels in East Orange. For the parcels informally known as Sully-Miller, Ridgeline and the OPA horse arena, Milan has submitted a series of proposals to develop this land, most of which is designated open space that falls within the Orange Park Acres (OPA) Specific Plan area. 

OPA led a long and costly successful effort to defeat a development on the former Ridgeline Golf Course property, which involved a citizens’ referendum and a litigation battle that went to the California Supreme Court. A few years later, OPA helped defeat the flawed Rio Santiago development on the Sully-Miller site, which the Orange Planning Commission and City Council voted to reject. 

The current development concept by Milan potentially involves all three sites. The City of Orange created a liaison committee comprised of two city council members and representatives from OPA, Mabury Ranch and The Reserve that has worked for over two years to find common ground and arrive at an agreement on a project. 

The OPA Board acknowledges that there are public benefits potentially included in the original proposal. However, significant impediments to an agreement remain. The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) Milan submitted in February proposed 129 homes, and had numerous legal and environmental defects and other problems. 

Anticipating that the DEIR defects can be corrected, the liaison committee has continued its good faith negotiations with Milan. However, while Milan’s latest offer proposed a reduction in the number of homes from 129 to 122, it also eliminated $1 million of public benefits. OPA’s most recent position was made clear in the liaison committee’s proposal to support 47 homes on 40 acres (twice the acreage currently zoned for housing) of the Sully-Miller site south of Santiago Creek, on condition that the DEIR defects be remedied, the OPA Specific Plan be preserved, and all originally promised public benefits be provided. 

On Aug. 27, Milan rejected this proposal. On Aug. 30, Milan submitted a proposal to build a six-home development on the horse arena site, thus eliminating a valuable public resource used by many in the surrounding communities. 

The OPA Board will continue to negotiate in good faith for an agreement that is consistent with zoning limits and protects the OPA Specific Plan while maintaining the public benefits that Milan originally proposed. However, the OPA Board will not be coerced into a deal over some of the last open space in Orange. The interests of all parties must be respected. The 47-home proposal does respect all parties’ interests, including Milan’s. If Milan is seriously interested in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement, it needs to recognize the value of what OPA has offered. 

Don Bradley, President
Orange Park Acres Association

Dear Editor:
Are you aware of OPA’s Specific Plan? It is the governing planning document that holds together the rural living community that was salvaged from the building boom in the early 70s. 

Its integrity is again being tested by Milan Capital. If Milan gets its way on the Sully-Miller property, and excises that acreage from the OPA plan, it opens a door that cannot be shut. 

OPA began in 1928 and has been through many changes. Will horses, chickens and other critters eventually be banished? After nearly 100 years of holding its own, do you want to allow one greedy developer, who has already attacked OPA and failed since 2007, to continue riding roughshod over us? 

We beat them in the community, we beat them in the streets, and we beat them in the courts. Is open space or rural acreage that can be flipped to 6,000-sq.-ft. lots worth destroying your community, your lifestyle and your home?

You need to get involved if you care about your community, your home and lifestyle. Milan ”bought off” community members who rode for the Milan brand, stirring up the community. Make no mistake, they will use every dirty developer trick and tactic because the result is worth millions to them, and those damaged by their acts have little or no recourse. The time to stand and be counted is Now.

Charles Leffler
Former resident, who left his heart in OPA

Dear Editor:
It makes sense, doesn’t it, that if you were to build a house, you would investigate several important prerequisites? The very least would be if the land on which you were to build was capable to support the house, and at what cost. Not so, Milan Capital, and not so, state law.

The Trails at Santiago Creek is proposed to be built on a former mining property that is plagued by several nuisances – a neighboring methane-producing closed landfill, a very large flood zone that has been under water several times in the last 50 years, an upstream earthen dam, land rehabilitation caused by 100 years of mining, contamination of Santiago Creek, the Peralta fault line, and a 109-inch water pipe that supplies southern Orange County.

An uncountable number of federal and state regulatory agencies govern the use of the land and its future. Reliable sources inform me that the cost and time to overcome the numerous, and sometimes onerous, regulations are enormous. Further, a zoning change on the property can be granted by the City of Orange Planning Commission prior to any or all of the regulated changes being done. Once greedy Milan Capital gets its hands on the zoning change, there are a couple of possibilities. The most likely is that Milan Capital will sell and flee, leaving an unsuspecting buyer to clean up a mess that has been created during the last 100 years – a mess that was bought unwittingly and will demand even more homes on the property to garner any reasonable return on investment.

I hope that those readers who desire reasonable, rational and responsible development of the property, or no development at all, will consider what is about to become an event that rivals the battles that concluded in a solid defeat for Milan Capital in the California Supreme Court. Stay tuned.

Peter Jacklin
Orange Park Acres

Dear Editor:
The Sully-Miller project is starting to look like a David Copperfield illusion. Nothing is what it seems since the “development plan” keeps changing, and it all depends on who you talk to and what year it is.  

Mabury Ranch conducted a survey among its residents in which the most favorable option would allow no development north of the creek and development of up to 129 homes to be contained within the boundaries of Santiago Road and the south side of Santiago Creek. The survey did not include the option agreed upon by the liaison committee that would limit the total number of homes, south of the creek, to under 50 with no development on the north side of the creek.

I wish that the survey had included a question on the 50-parcel option with the specifics agreed upon by the liaison committee. It is inevitable that something will eventually be built on the property. Mabury, OPA, The Reserve and Villa Park residents will become more miserable by the increase in traffic that now plagues us almost 24 hours a day. However, if all the surrounding communities stand united, we have a better chance of minimizing the impact of this unfortunate project. 

Cathy Clark
Mabury Ranch

Kid stuff

Dear Editor:
Having worked at Villa Park Elementary for 34 years, I have come to the realization that Mayor Robert Collacott  has not learned the basic rules that are taught to kindergarten students.  He should take the time to read “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Some of the basics are: play fair, don’t bully, know the difference between right and wrong, be responsible for your actions, be kind, and the two most important, do not lie, and follow the rules. 

Homework assignments have deadlines, even in kindergarten.  When those deadlines are not met, there are consequences.  I experienced firsthand the crying children who could not play at recess or participate in an activity due to not turning in their homework on time.  The deadline is written on the board, it is emailed, it is on the homework form, it is in the newsletter and sometimes even pinned to their jackets.  

“I didn’t know the deadline” is not an excuse that is acceptable in kindergarten, high school, college or work, and it certainly should not be an excuse for the Mayor of Villa Park.  Robert Collacott testified in Superior Court that he forgot the deadline to file the forms to run for re-election. Notices were  emailed multiple times to him, it was in the city newsletter, in the newspaper, discussed in city meetings, and he signed documents acknowledging the deadlines.  But, on Aug. 10 while in San Diego County,  he describes the “fire drill” as he drives off the freeway and enters a Kinkos in La Jolla  at 4:25 p.m. and fills out faxed candidate papers, signs them stating he was in Villa Park, dates them Aug. 10, does not fill in all the information and faxes them to his neighbor who submitted the faxed papers to city hall at 4:45.  He could not even turn in his “homework” by himself, plus it was incomplete. 

Then on Monday, Aug. 13,  three days after the deadline to file, Mayor Collacott signs a new candidate paper, and dates it Aug. 10,  BUT it was Aug. 13. The other three candidates turned in their papers on time, in person, and signed their Affidavit of Nominee and Oath in city hall with a real signature.  Signing under penalty of perjury is a real statement.  Acknowledging to a Superior Court judge that you backdated documents should have consequences.  

The residents should question city documents signed by Robert Collacott as to their authenticity and validity.   I want to know WHY the rules do not apply to Robert Collacott. 

Kathi Curtis
Villa Park

October 2018