LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:

Home's where the heart is

April 2019

Home's where the heart is

Dear Editor:
Recently, OPA leadership decided that they will not negotiate with the developer of the Sully-Miller site. This is not a huge surprise, given that negotiations have not taken place for over a year. OPA’s stance is to have one-acre lots with open space, or nothing. I do not believe this is the right course of action, and because of this and the reasons listed below, I have resigned from my position on the OPA Real Estate Committee (REC).

The developer has offered the seven-acre arena site to OPA, and has offered Ridgeline to the city, in return for building 128 homes on 40 acres of the 110-acre Sully-Miller site, the balance of 70 acres going to open space. Some of this acreage is in the OPA sphere of influence. The proposed 128 homes are too many homes to be built on the 40-acre site. But, why not at least try and negotiate this number down?

The Orange Park Acres Specific Plan and the Santiago Creek Greenbelt Plan both call for Sully-Miller to be open space. That being said, neither plan speaks to OPA having an arena site nor to Ridgeline being a public benefit for the City of Orange and its citizens. If OPA were to get the arena site, it would allow for an arena, as well as a great 4-H area. The 4-H club has members not only from OPA, but also from Mabury Ranch, Villa Park and Orange.

This elitist attitude of one-acre lot sites is rather disingenuous, considering that four out of nine OPA board members and three out of eight REC members live on lots that are less than one acre. The OPA Specific Plan even speaks to this: “The acceptance of clustering in Orange Park Acres will allow families of moderate income to live in the area.”

With all the good things that are on the table for OPA and for our neighbors, I cannot stand by and see OPA squander what I consider to be a potentially good deal, especially if the number of homes can be reduced through negotiations.

I stand proud for my 30 years of service to our community. Thank you for letting me serve.

Tom Davidson
Orange Park Acres

Dear Editor:
For too long, the former Sully-Miller site on Santiago Canyon Road has been both an eyesore and an imposition. The condition of the site and the operations of its past and current occupants suggest a disregard for the interests of the surrounding community and the welfare of the City of Orange. Moreover, the Trails at Santiago Creek proposal to put 128 dwellings on 40.7 acres represents another departure from the existing land use parameters for the 109-acre site. 

The residents of Orange deserve better. The citizens of Orange did not create the problem. Those who have used the site for a variety of mining, dumping, grinding and related purposes created the problem, and continue to abuse any reasonable original intent. One can only wonder why it is that such misuse of the property is allowed to continue. 

The Trails at Santiago Creek project submitted by the developer Milan REI X proposes that the current situation will be mitigated by a mixture of well-choreographed housing, trails and open space. To make this happen, the developer is asking for special dispensation regarding transportation, construction process, land use and housing density issues. In essence, the citizens of Orange are being asked to accept less than the best use of the property, in exchange for the benefits to be accrued by the developer. 

Again, residents did not create the problem. Those who have used and abused the site should bear full responsibility to improve it in a manner consistent with existing ordinances, zoning and surrounding amenities. Anything less would result in just another blemish and imposition. The City of Orange deserves better. 

Ken and Julie Stichter
Orange

Dear Editor:
I have been a longtime resident in Orange, and am currently a Mabury Ranch homeowner. One of the main reasons my family moved to the East Orange area was because of the increasing crime and congestion in West Orange. Over the years, we have seen increased crime and major traffic congestion in our neighborhood. 

At rush hour, it is gridlock along Santiago and Cannon, with cars backed up for miles on end. I am feeling unsafe in my neighborhood, and fed up with the traffic that is only getting worse every year.

With that said, this proposed development on the Sully-Miller site will be absolutely the worst- case scenario for our community. Not only will there be additional traffic congestion and crime, but our fragile environment, creek and wildlife will be greatly effected with this proposed development. It will no longer have that unique rural open space that is almost extinct in Orange County.

I was in attendance at the March Mabury Ranch Board meeting, where the vote was split down the middle on the proposed Trails at Santiago development, which shows not all of Mabury Ranch is in favor of the project.

Kelly Herbeck
Mabury Ranch

Dear Editor:
Vindicated at last! I was pleased to read the “Mea Culpa” letter to the editor in the March edition of the Foothills Sentry. In 2001, I saw the contract signed by the OPA Board president and Frank Foster of Fieldstone, pledging 100 percent support from the OPA community for the Fieldstone project. OPA would receive $1,000,000 and ownership of the horse arena for its support. 

In 2001, I spoke to the city council about the Fieldstone project, and made the point that the council members must receive all comments made by residents of OPA as paid lobbyists and not the concerned citizens they were pretending to be. I was verbally attacked and called every name in the book by the OPA representatives. It has been a long wait, but I appreciate they finally acknowledged I was right. 

I was shocked to learn from the “Mea Culpa” letter that four past presidents of the OPA Board “were not educated about the OPA Specific Plan” and “were not fully informed regarding the consequences to our plan.” How could anyone accept the responsibilities of being an OPA Board president and not be aware of the OPA Specific Plan? These are the same people that constantly preach that they know what is best for us and East Orange. 

Dan Swoish
Mabury Ranch 

Dear Editor:
As a resident of Jamestown, I feel the need to respond to what many are throwing around as an “acceptable” solution for the Milan project to go through and rid the community of the gravel pit and the spectacle it has become.

I am in favor of Milan building in the areas already zoned for housing – the arena property and north of the creek. I am very much in favor of Milan cleaning up the dirt pile and restoring the land to open/usable space. That is a critical point: the remainder of the site must remain open space, as designed in the East Orange Specific Plan, the OPA Specific Plan, the Orange General Plan and the Greenbelt Plan. 

If the plan Milan and others are pushing is passed, the increase of traffic, noise, dirt, dust and grime, not to mention the ability (or freedom) to go in and out of our community, will be substantially impacted, to say the least. 

Jamestown residents currently cannot safely, if at all, turn left from Jamestown onto Santiago Canyon Road from 3:30 p.m. to, at best, 6:30 p.m. Mornings from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., turning right is again a risk, due to the mass amounts of traffic currently flowing to and from the toll roads. The traffic noise starts at an eye-opening 5:15-5:30 a.m., and again from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  

When I purchased my home 10 years ago, I did realize that I was living off a major street, that there was a working/non-working gravel pit close by, and that there was not a guarantee that my community would not grow.  However, to put 128 homes almost at the entrance of my community, in an area zoned for open space, is a different story. 

Milan purchased the lump of acreage with the goal of changing the zoning and laying out mass housing. Why should we all now have to succumb to its gamble and bad financial decisions? Milan has literally destroyed the open space between Jamestown and Mabury Ranch with its years of dumping. Is it an eyesore? Yes. Should it have ever gotten this far without city intervention? Absolutely not. 

However, as bad as the site currently looks, the frightening thought is, if Milan is allowed to re-zone, it will most likely sell it. The new owner will more than likely lobby to re-zone for more homes, and will be successful.  Why? Because the city will have set a precedent, instead of adhering to the plans that are currently in place. 

We need to push the city to close down the dumping operation and clean up the land. As a community, we are sure to grow, but we need to adhere to the plans in place, and be mindful of the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Deborah Redfern
Jamestown 

Dear Editor:
If Orange Park Acres truly wants to maintain this area as an equestrian community, it needs to evolve with the times. Much has changed since OPA drafted its Specific Plan in 1973. Land was cheap, and space was abundant. 

OPA has stated that it opposes the current proposal for the Sully-Miller property  because it threatens the integrity of this equestrian area. It is my opinion, that it may actually GROW this community if the resources in this proposal are used wisely.

Equestrian communities come in several forms, but two main types are found across the country. The first is an “equestrian center subdivision” (clustered homes), and the second is “horse farm communities” (the individual home-and-stable model). Both developments are founded with the same purpose: to keep people and horses together on the same property, with riding options and amenities.

Equestrian communities all over the country have been moving away from large, privately owned homes with their own stables, and favoring shared resources, due to both the economy of scale in doing so, and changing lifestyles. The “equine communities” are far more appealing to new horse owners; they board their animals in community stables that have common riding arenas, access to trails, and amenities that would normally fall upon each horse owner to build and maintain themselves. A common vet, farrier, barn crew and maintenance crew help keep these arrangements running smoothly for a fraction of the cost.

The lessons learned from The Reserve development should not be lost to OPA. They spent years fighting to get 22 one-acre homes and eight half-acre homes so that those buying in the community could have stables, but new buyers opted to have pools and tennis courts instead.

If OPA truly wants to build an equine community to last another 100 years, it needs to look forward  and not to the past. If they do not, they will go the way of the other great trends of 1973 -- like encyclopedias, bell-bottoms, and the pocket calculator. 

Mark Moore
The Reserve

Dear Editor:
Why can’t we hear a chorus of frogs in Santiago Creek, downstream from Prospect and Collins, through Hart Park, and all the way to the Santa Ana River? Why is there no one on horseback riding past the smiling faces of families to the west of Cannon Street?  Why are there no deer or quail downstream of the Orange County Water District’s recharge basins? Why are constellations barely visible in Old Towne Orange? Why is it difficult to find evidence of our Native American, Spanish, Mexican and early agricultural history in West Orange? Why is designated open space in East Orange threatened by development? Will city representatives stand up for residents, by adhering to the specific and general plans to insure our safety, health and quality of life? 

On the 250th anniversary of the Portolá Expedition’s encampment along Arroyo Santiago (Santiago Creek) in what is now East Orange, we have an opportunity to preserve, restore and celebrate an area where frogs, quail, deer, cowgirls, cowboys, starry skies, large swaths of open space and Native American artifacts still exist! What West Orange lost long ago, East Orange still has. 

Joel Robinson
Orange 

Dear Editor:
Orange Park Acres has been my home for nearly 40 years. I’ve served on the OPA Board for 19 years, and got elected again in January.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate how special Orange Park Acres is and the importance of protecting our 91-year-old community. 

I know, firsthand, the threats we have faced in the last 20 years from outside investors who have tried to profit off the open space areas (Ridgeline and Sully Miller) in our community. What they fail to realize, is there is a plan in place – the OPA Specific Plan – that precisely lays out how land is to be used in Orange Park Acres. The plan has worked perfectly for the last 45 years, thanks to those who crafted it in 1973.

 The Ridgeline effort helped so many of us understand the value of proper planning, and why it matters. When we were forced to choose between the horse arena and protecting our plan, the OPA Board unanimously voted to protect our plan. We circulated a referendum, were forced to litigate and ultimately prevailed at the State Supreme Court. 

Those same questions are forced on us today – save the arena or protect the plan. It is rewarding to see that so many people now understand our “precise plan” and are willing to defend it. We acknowledge that Milan has the right to build homes on the horse arena site. By the same token, we expect Milan to respect the OPA Specific Plan, as written. As with Ridgeline, bailing out Milan for bad investments is not an option.

Laura Thomas
Orange Park Acres