August 2019

Villa Park settles development truck traffic issues for promises and $25K

By Tina Richards

The City of Villa Park’s concerns regarding heavy truck traffic using its streets during construction of the proposed development on the Sully-Miller site were assuaged by mitigation measures and $25,000 offered by developer Milan Capital.

In a letter to the City of Orange, July 2, Villa Park Mayor Vince Rossini wrote that if the negotiated conditions were met, “Villa Park is supportive of moving forward with The Trails at Santiago Creek project.”

When the project’s original Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) and its revised DEIR were released for public review, Villa Park submitted an eight-page comment letter detailing its objections to 100,000 truck trips traversing Villa Park Road en route to the 55 Freeway, and the attendant noise, dust, fumes and congestion the traffic would inflict on residences and nearby VP Elementary School. The letter noted that although 50 percent of the 275,400 estimated truck trips hauling 1.37 million cubic yards of dirt over a 1.5-year period would use Villa Park Road, the DEIR did not analyze the traffic, air quality, fire, flood or hazardous materials impacts on Villa Park streets and residents.

Let’s make a deal
Villa Park’s letter to Orange came none too soon. Milan was required to submit its responses to comments on the revised DEIR by July 5, 10 days prior to its scheduled planning commission hearing.  Villa Park was likely the last box the developer needed to check; it released its responses July 3. 

The letter and the negotiated conditions were approved by the Villa Park City Council in a closed session meeting. Bob Collacott was the only councilman to vote “no.”  “This project will have a large impact on the city,” he said.  “This should have been addressed in a public hearing, not behind closed doors.”

The deal Villa Park officials made with Milan's consultant does little to mitigate the traffic, air quality or noise issues the city cited in its DEIR comment letter. Under one condition, “a targeted average of 75 percent” of truck traffic “relating to hauling and soil remediation” will be prohibited from using Santiago Canyon/Villa Park Road. There is a 10 percent variance built into the 75 percent.  The developer “will assist in monitoring usage” by providing a log of actual truck traffic every three months.

Down for the count
If the city suspects the 75 percent promise is not being honored, it won’t know for sure until it sees the quarterly log. And if the promise is not upheld, there are no defined consequences. 

The city fully expects that the convoy of heavy trucks will damage Villa Park Road. Milan has agreed to “cooperate” with the city regarding construction-related wear and tear. What either party means by “cooperate” is not defined. 

The condition does not stipulate that Milan will pay for any road repairs, fill in potholes itself, reimburse the city or even return phone calls.

Milan will be required to keep all haul routes and adjacent streets clean and free from debris “as directed by the city engineer.” How soon? How often? And, again, no consequences if the developer fails to comply. Private residences that back up to Villa Park Road will have to contend with dust, dirt and gravel on their own.

The developer has agreed to provide a crossing guard at Villa Park Road and Center Street during construction periods throughout the school year. The city estimates that to be an $18,000 value. Once the grading permit for the project is issued, Milan will contribute $25,000 to help recondition the city’s greenbelt.   

Deal residents in
The developer’s immediate goal is to get the property rezoned to accommodate housing. Once the Orange City Council approves it, Milan has 10 years to finish the project. It has offered no development schedule and grading may be years out. As will be that $25,000.

At the July 23 Villa Park City Council meeting, Councilman Collacott recommended that a public hearing on the topic be agendized for the August session. He noted that in addition to truck traffic, the project introduces congestion, public safety and road damage impacts, and that residents may experience excessive noise and loss of property values over the life of the development project. He also pointed out that motorists will drive through residential neighborhoods to avoid Villa Park Road.  “The impacts on our city may be the most significant that we have ever experienced,” he said.

Collacott stressed that residents should have the opportunity to understand and provide input on the city’s position on the development projects, as well as the proposed conditions of approval. “Such a hearing,” he said, “is consistent with our policy of transparency in council decision-making. I am inviting all council members to join with me as cosponsors in placing this hearing on the August agenda.”