A large crowd attended Tuesday night’s City Council meeting at the Community Center sporting green T-shirts in support of the South Shores Church expansion project approved that night by a unanimous vote. Photo: Andrea Swayne
A large crowd attended Tuesday night’s City Council meeting at the Community Center sporting green T-shirts in support of the South Shores Church expansion project approved that night by a unanimous vote. Photo: Andrea Swayne

By Andrea Swayne

Dana Point City Council voted 5-0 to approve coastal development, conditional use and site development permits for the South Shores Church Master Plan expansion project first proposed in 2009.

The council’s decision upholds a March 30 approval by the Planning Commission for the church’s 6-acre site at 32712 Crown Valley Parkway.

Project opponents, most living in adjacent neighborhoods, have long criticized the project for potential impacts to traffic, pollution/runoff, wildlife, concerns related to the geological stability of the slope below the site as well as construction noise, dust and debris expected during the 10-year phased plan.

Plans require the demolition of three of the church’s existing buildings and the construction of four new ones along with a new semi-subterranean parking structure. The approved Revised Alternative 2 is a scaled-back version of the original proposal, by approximately 25 percent, in response to concerns raised by city officials and the community at previous public meetings and workshops. Other changes include larger building setbacks, changes to the phasing order of projects and other operational adjustments meant to mitigate impacts.

The audience seats at the meeting, held in the Community Center gym, were nearly full of church proponents wearing green T-shirts to show their support and a handful of speakers both for and against commented.

Neighboring resident Linda Enochs voiced her dismay over the prospect of having to endure the long construction schedule.

“Ten years is an extremely long time to anyone to endure construction,” Enochs said. “I may not be here in 10 years … the last years of my life I will be eating dirt and listening to noise.”

Others said they felt the church could accomplish their goals with a much smaller and more quickly completed project.

Roger Butow, a representative of longtime opponent organization Clean Water Now, said he believes the reason no impacts were found—specifically regarding a pair of runoff detention basins below the site—is because the basins were not identified as wetlands.

“The project is in violation of CEQA because you did not identify all environmental impacts by portraying it only as a basin. It’s a wetland,” Butow told the council.

Mark McGuire, a land-use attorney for the church, countered Butow, saying the California Coastal Commission has been aware of the small artificial wetland on the pad when the lower basin was created during the adjacent Point Monarch condo project.

“The Coastal Commission allowed it to be created,” McGuire said, adding that it received Coastal Commission approval in 2000.

Council members commented that after reviewing the Environmental Impact Report and finding it very thorough, they could see no reason the project should not move forward, as no significant impacts had been identified by any agency.

“There has to be some concessions on both sides … and I am sure this has been accomplished,” Mayor Carlos Olvera said. “I know that the agencies reviewing this have been satisfied so I know it’s not just the city overlooking something.”

Butow insisted the issue makes the project appealable to the Coastal Commission and vowed to file an appeal.

“We have made every attempt to negotiate with the church … offered feasible, cost-effective compromise … we are being the reasonable ones,” Butow said. “That wetland is going to be the devil in the details. That wetland is under a lot of jurisdictional agencies … I look forward to seeing some of you at the Coastal Commission.”

View the meeting agenda report here: DP CC 060215 South Shores Church

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