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Ranch road on deck

City Council will discuss whether to connect area with West Coast Highway, a proposal that environmental group doesn’t want.

March 22, 2010|By Brianna Bailey

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday night will consider approving an agreement to build an access road for Sunset Ridge Park in West Newport that will run through Banning Ranch.

Conservationists who want to preserve Banning Ranch, a large parcel of undeveloped, coastal land that abuts West Coast Highway, say that even if paved with good intentions, building the road would be the first step toward developing the area.

“If you can put a man on the moon, Newport Beach can come up with a plan for Sunset Ridge Park that does not involve a road through Banning Ranch,” said Terry Welsh, leader of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, a nonprofit that wants to preserve Banning Ranch.

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Newport Beach Councilman Steve Rosansky, whose district includes Sunset Ridge Park, said the road is needed to give motorists safe access to West Coast Highway from the park. Deciding where the road should go has been the result of a year’s worth of approvals, planning and negotiations, he said.

“I think [the road] supports the development of the park and it’s neutral as to the development of Banning Ranch,” Rosansky said.

Plans for the proposed road match the designs of Newport Banning Ranch LLC, a consortium of three land owners that owns Banning Ranch. The new road would be named Bluff Road.

Newport Banning Ranch LLC wants to build 1,375 homes, shops and a hotel on Banning Ranch. Bluff Road is already included in their preliminary plans for the development. The developer has already agreed to give Newport Beach an easement to build the road at no cost to the city.

“The first step toward development is being done by the city,” Welsh said.

Mike Mohler, a project manager for Newport Banning Ranch LLC, said Friday that voters approved Sunset Ridge Park as part of an update to the city’s General Plan in 2006.

“Newport Banning Ranch is pleased to be in a position to help. As we understand it, the road provides safe access and minimal hazards to it,” he said.

Sunset Ridge, a 13.67-acre sports park, is planned for the north corner of West Coast Highway and Superior Avenue, right next door to Banning Ranch.

The 28-foot-wide, two-lane access road would run north-south, cutting across Banning Ranch.

The road would intersect with West Coast Highway about 1,000 feet west of Superior Avenue. Plans for the park show that the road would stretch north from West Coast Highway for about 850 feet, where it would end at the park parking lot.

City plans also include putting in a three-way traffic signal on West Coast Highway at the terminus of the new access road. Construction on Sunset Ridge Park is slated for completion in spring 2011.


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