“Let’s let the public tour the heck out of that land, then vote on whether something like this gets developed. What the owners are trying to do is push this through very quickly, behind the scenes, before the public knows what it’s going to lose,” said Kevin Nelson, who gave a slide presentation of Banning Ranch’s scenery.
He showed pictures of canyons filled with trees, fields of lavender flowers and waterways off limits to the public, attempting to show the roughly 50-person audience the possibilities the land offers.
The property’s owners, a consortium of companies called Newport Banning Ranch LLC, say they are giving the community a deal by only developing 30% of the land. The plan they propose would develop the southeastern portion, and leave the northwestern portion as open space.
Traffic studies and environmental impact reports have not been completed, so the owners haven’t proposed any plans to lessen the impact the development may have, but they say such studies are coming.
“A traffic report, an air quality analysis will all have to be reviewed and certified by the City Council in Newport Beach, to determine whether the development is something the site and community could bear,” said Marice White, a spokeswoman for the ownership group.
The compromise the owners offer is not really a compromise at all because the land they aren’t going to touch couldn’t be developed in the first place, Bunyan said.
“You cannot develop on the Lower Mesa. There’s no way the California Coastal Commission would let them build that close to wetlands,” Bunyan said.