By Tina Richards
While Orange County’s “Orange is the New Green,” zoning ordinances wend their way through the approval process, it’s business as usual for a proposed development in unincorporated North Tustin.
OC’s “green” ordinances are being touted to ”incorporate sustainable policies and best management practices.” Specifically, the revised zoning is intended to “prevent the overcrowding of land, lessen congestion on streets and promote the stability of existing land uses.” “Orange is the New Green” is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors, July 28, after twice being postponed from earlier meetings.
Meanwhile, a developer is asking the county for a zone change on the 5.88-acre Tustin Hills Racquet Club to enable construction of 34 townhouses and three single-family units, shown below. The site is currently zoned A-1 (agriculture); the developer, Ranch Hills Partners, has requested R-2 (residential, 5000), which would allow lot sizes of 5,000 square feet.
County planning staff have concluded that converting the site from tennis courts/recreation to multi-family residential will have no significant impacts on the community. That means the county is not requiring the builder to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
EIRs are generally required by the state to let neighboring communities and governing agencies know what impacts will result from a given project, and what will be done to mitigate them. In this case, however, county planners determined from the get-go that any impacts on noise, aesthetics, air and water quality, traffic congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions would be insignificant.
Neighbors seeing red
The lack of an EIR further aggravates North Tustin residents who have voiced their opposition to any residential development on the racquet club site for the last two years.
“The County asserts that an environmental impact study is not necessary for the high-density housing project because the development will not have significant environmental impacts,” Foothill Communities Association (FCA) President Rick Nelson wrote in an email to residents. “We believe this is not the case. There will be an increase in traffic on the surrounding roads, more housing requires more water in a drought-prone region, and the destruction of the racquet club will remove the only outdoor recreation in the area.”
The document explaining why an EIR is not necessary – a mitigated negative declaration – is currently available for public review. Deadline for comments is June 5. The proposed project will next go to the North Tustin Advisory Committee for its review and recommendation.
High-density development slated to replace Tustin Ranch Racquet Club