As promised, a coalition of residents and environmental groups filed suit in Superior Court this week against the County of Orange and the Board of Supervisors over approval of a 65-unit housing project that is to be carved into rural canyons northwest of Cook's Corner.
"This is a catastrophic failure of local representative government," claims Ray Chandos, secretary/treasurer with plaintiff the Rural Canyons Conservation Fund, in his lawsuit announcement.
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Rejecting emotional pleas by area residents and petitions signed by 2,000 people, supervisors voted unanimously last month to not only allow Irvine-based Rutter Development Corp.'s controversial Saddle Crest project, but to amend the county's Foothill/Trabuco Specific Plan, clearing the way for the current and future developments.
In doing so, county supervisors with enough developer and building industry contributors over the years to fill a New York City phonebook claimed to be righting regulatory wrongs for future generations.
But Chandos accuses the elected officials of not only "selling out the people they were elected to represent," but "throwing out the rules they themselves made in 1991, all for a single campaign contributor."
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Technically, Chandos is correct about the Board of Supervisors of '91, although different individuals sat on that panel. And the single campaign contributor he references is actually Rutter Santiago, a division of Rutter Development.
Project foes claim the new housing tract will "carve out of pristine hillsides and oak forests," require "mass grading," suburbanize what is now one of the county's rare, historically rural areas and essentially bulldoze the 1991 Foothill Trabuco Specific Plan, which protected canyons, hillsides and mature oak trees.
Their suit seeks to overturn amendments to that plan and approval of Saddle Crest, as well as bind supervisors to established state and county building rules throughout the unincorporated lands they oversee. For instance, Saddle Crest's environmental impact report violates the
California Environmental Quality Act by failing to disclose the project's true impacts on traffic and the environment, according to the complaint.