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Planning Commission may approve Banning Ranch plans

If the land were bought for public open space, it would cost $30 million for cleanup, report says.

June 20, 2012|By Mike Reicher

After months of public hearings, the Newport Beach Planning Commission may approve the Newport Banning Ranch development plans at its meeting Thursday.

The City Council would still have to approve the plans as well.

Planning department staff members recommend that the commission OK the project, despite the projected noise, traffic and other impacts to neighboring communities.

To allow 1,375 homes and commercial uses on 401 acres west of Newport Beach, the commission and council will have to declare that the public benefits outweigh certain negative impacts, such as any light and noise pollution affecting the nearby Newport Crest condominiums.

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A city staff report says the developer would set aside more than 50% of the land for open space, the project would provide new public and coastal access, and the developer would clean up active and abandoned oil fields.

If the land were to be bought for public open space — a preferred option in the city's general plan — then taxpayers may have to pay roughly $30 million for cleanup, the report says.

Conservationists have struggled to raise enough funds to buy the land or to clean it. They generally oppose developing the property because it would destroy some sensitive wildlife habitat and because of the project's density.

In April, the Banning Ranch Conservancy threatened to sue the city because it said that the project's environmental impact report was not properly certified. The commission plans to recertify the document Thursday.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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