A Residential development has been proposed for the 110-acres on the former sand and gravel mine in East Orange. Over the years, there have been an assortment of design proposals. There have been committees from residents, consultants, and city officials that agree or disagree with this submission reviewed at city council meetings. Recently, City of Orange and Villa Park planners have been listening to Milan Capital Management’s interest to convert this once proposed open, commercial space area into a housing community. The developer would offer a high-density design that could offer this community more home options.
Milan is requesting a commercial zone change to residential for this project. The opposition has forced the developer to reduce the number of proposed homes from 150 to 128. The Orange Park Acres Association has said this is too large and dislikes the plan. The locals have counter-offered this plan with a suggested 47 homes. In 2003, this same group had approved a 189-home development, but argued this region has seen a surge of transformation with increased traffic since this initial offer. The development is believed not capable to handle beyond the suggested house construction limits.
According to a community action site, there are “12 acres zoned (R-1-8) for houses.” In this semi-rural area, equestrian lifestyles are maintained. The proposal to convert this quarry into an area that would provide new homes might disrupt this ideal design. The remaining 98 acres would continue as open spaces. This natural use of land was designated in 1973. The developer has asked to convert the “mixed-use planned community into single-family residential and rural neighborhoods. They want a 265-unit Senior Assisted & Skilled Nursing 24-hour Facility, 130 homes and a private sports club with fields and courts.”
The city is using the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) to evaluate the plans. CEQA requires a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for a housing project. It includes a “project description, identification of on-site and off-site impacts to mitigation” according to the Villa Park mayor. The former quarry site should have a reclamation plan according to city officials. This means the mine should have an action proposal to restore and renew the land for new use. In order to avoid a potential lawsuit, the plan should be in place.
The quarry site has been exposed to methane gas along with green and metal waste that was buried on site which affect the environment quality. Adjacent to the project, the firehouse had explosive levels of methane when this site was evaluated twenty-five years ago. Additionally, it is located along two fault lines. The eighty-year old Villa Park dam is also on one of the fault lines. In order to avoid a natural disaster with an earthquake that displaces this large body of water, the site should consider the current infrastructure in the CEQA report. Air quality is also a concern with disturbing the current landscape.
There are dirt mounds that need to be moved prior to any construction. The removal of these illegally placed dirt piles has caused friction with Villa Park residents who ask the developers to consider how the trucks will halt natural traffic flow and decrease air quality control. These issues were not addressed in the DEIR, so council members and concerned residents voiced the needed measures during the December meeting. Alternative haul routes are being explored to reduce the impact to Villa Park residents. The City of Villa Park will pose follow-up questions to the City of Orange that needs to address these concerns. If they are not, it is likely that litigation measures will follow.
Part of the challenge with the physical layout of this housing community is that there is only one way to exit. This is the Santiago Canyon Road which was problematic during fire evacuation. With added residents, this will only increase the time to successfully move this population to safety. The long-term traffic impacts were not included in the draft, which may add several hundred vehicles traveling on this road daily.
Regardless of this site’s ability to construct as many homes as proposed by the developer, Milan has been approved to construct six houses on the Mara Brandman Horse Arena. Each house will be situated on a one to 1.19 acre property, adjacent to the horse training facility. This is a desirable location for these amenities. The arena is directly across from the Sully Miller site. Residents have voiced their concerns that the plan that was approved on November 13, 2018 didn’t consider their opinions. It has been called a bargaining chip for the larger development plans. A formal response hasn’t been issued towards Milan.
Sully-Miller Project Impact on Villa Park
The Villa Park city council has submitted comments for evaluation as the DEIR’s report does not appear to have taken into consideration the impact that this development would have on the City of Villa Park. Primary concerns include short term wear and tear on Villa Park roads from construction trucks, long term wear and tear, and increased traffic. Villa Park operates on a limited budget and does not have the funds to repair roads from being used as a throughfare by vehicles that wish to bypass traffic on highways and established throughfares.
The development is planned right at Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon Street where some of the worst traffic in the area occurs during rush hour. Santiago Canyon Rd can be backed up for miles going back to the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery where traffic is attempting to go right on Cannon St and on to Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda and Riverside. This has already led to increased traffic in Villa Park where cars attempt to cut around this traffic by driving through Villa Park during morning and afternoon rush hours. Additional homes in the area would only increase this traffic through Villa Park and further deteriorate the roads on an already slim city operating budget.