The controversial Banning Ranch Development was presented to the California coastal commission last month and after more than eight hours of discussion, commissioners unanimously voted to postpone their decision and hear the project again in 90 days. Coastal commission staff had recommended that the commission deny Newport Banning Ranches application for coastal permit to construct the 401 acre housing and mixed-use project. The Newport Beach City Council approved the development plan in 2012, but the Banning Ranch Conservancy, a preservation group, challenged it with a lawsuit that is in appeals court.
The proposal includes 261 acres of open space, 30 acres of parks, 9.5 acres of public trails, 17 acres of roads, 72 acres of residential with 1375 residential units, 4 acres of retail and 6 acres of resort with a 75 room hotel.
The main reason behind the commission’s uncertainty and ultimate action for extension are the environmental sensitive habitat areas.
Commissioners discussed the definition and importance of ESHA. Some expressed concern about whether or not the sensitive area can be restored if they’re left for too long. Some commissioners also a noted that there are areas needed to be handled more delicately
Commission staff admitted there are benefits to the proposed Banning Ranch project but they are in entwined with substantial impacts to highly sensitive resources and permanent loss of a very rare and valuable ecosystem that cannot be replicated.
Several of the commissioners acknowledged that there is potential for a project in the area but maybe not exactly what was proposing. Most agreed that a lot of work still needed to be done. They urged NBR officials to listen carefully to the commission, staff and public comments that were made.
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