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City Clears the Way for In-N-Out to Build

The restaurant is never mentioned at the meeting of the Rancho Santa Margarita City Council, but its approval in a number of consent items has clear burger implications.

A rather pedestrian meeting of the City Council of Rancho Santa Margarita meandered through an agenda Wednesday that wasn’t very exciting.

Unless, of course, you’re dying for In-N-Out Burger to come to town.

The burger icon was never mentioned during the short meeting, but amid a string of consent calendar items was the zoning code amendment that gives In-N-Out the final go-ahead to build on the northwest corner of Santa Margarita Parkway and State Route 241.

The thin strip of land, measured at 0.39 of an acre, that had been zoned as open space served as a buffer between Santa Margarita Ford and the toll road; now zoned commercial-general, it will be used for parking and landscaping by In-N-Out.

It was one of nine items the council agreed to in bulk; others included the signing off on the Antonio Parkway Pavement Rehabilitation Project, which improved the roadway between Coto de Caza/La Promesa and Via Honesto and included an upgrade of handicap access.

Also included was approval of three-year contracts for public works maintenance service with PV Maintenance, and janitorial services for City Hall and the Bell Tower Regional Community Center with Sunset Property Services.

The council also approved, separately, a professional services agreement with Environmental Intelligence LLC for restoration ecology consulting services. That's part of the Chiquita Ridge park project.

Environmental Intelligence will be responsible for five phases of work, for $207,500, that includes drafting, getting approval and implementing a restoration plan for 80 acres across Antonio Parkway from Tijeras Creek Golf Course.

Councilman Jerry Holloway questioned the lack of bids for the project, but was told by director of development services Kathleen Haton that Environmental Intelligence provided the best and most economical option among four environmental firms the city had on call.

Holloway moved that the council accept the recommendation by city staff and it was passed unanimously by attending members Tony Beall, Steve Baric and Carol Gamble.

Resident Larry McCook spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting asking where the money would come from to fund the Chiquita Ridge project.

Paul Boyer, the city's director of administrative services, said afterward that there were different options that included using money from the general fund, which currently stands at more than $15 million, or there could be a partnership with a developer that could foot the bill in exchange for managing the commercial property at the location.

"That's what those categories are set aside for," said Boyer, who explained during the meeting how the city's budget was broken down by various areas. "(The category for) Council Strategic could be used for that.

Boyer said having a developer take over the costs "would be the No. 1 outcome."

"The reserves are meant to be spent," he said, "but they're also good to have in your pocket."

The categories are: Emergency, Council Strategic, Technology, Facilities, Vehicles, and Infrastructure.

Other than that, the most engaging material of the 75-minute meeting centered on council members wishing good luck to retiring city manager Steve Hayman.

Hayman, who retired at the end of 2011, stayed on in an interim role while council members searched out his replacement. This was Hayman’s final meeting; the next time the council meets, July 11, it will include Hayman’s successor, Jennifer Cervantez, who begins work at City Hall following the Independence Day holiday.

In other actions:

  • The council heard a presentation from Jim Leach, the CEO of the South Orange County Regional Chamber of Commerce, who spoke about the organization's mission and the South O.C. Economic Coalition, which can be an advocate for business and infrastructure in the region. More information can be found at its website, economiccoalition.com and soocchamber.com.
  • The council approved three resolutions related to the general election on November 6, 2012. Among the resolutions was allowing candidates to choose 200- or 400- word candidate statements for $875 and $1,335, respectively.
  • The council approved allocating the general fund into the categories mentioned above in order to comply with government accounting standards.
April Josephson June 28, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I'm sorry to see Steve Hayman leaving, but wish him well. Thanks for your strong leadership and commitment to RSM. Enjoy your retirement!
Lawrence (Larry) McCook June 28, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I am highly in favor of developing the Chiquita Ridge Area in an ecologically safe manner but, the reality is that there is no realistic cost estimate or timing for the fruition of this project. The total development costs will surely exceed $15,000,000.00 by far. An extremely well heeled developer would certainly be one possible solution. There are many hurdles to clear before any development will ever begin and it will be years before completion. We extremely need additional commercial development space to expand RSM business opportunities thereby creating jobs.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook June 28, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Steve Hayman did an excellent job and left "Big Shoes" to fill! Wishing him a Happy Retirement!
Dwane June 29, 2012 at 01:53 PM
RSM needs faster development, and not sit around waiting to cut through all the red tape. If they just get the Chiquita Ridge Area project rolling it will work itself out. Everyone always knocks the government, but they always figure out a way to get the money somehow to finish public developement projects and at the end of the day we have better stuff around us.
Dwane June 29, 2012 at 01:59 PM
They need to just get the Chiquita Ridge Area project rolling instead of waiting around to cut through the red tape. People always knock the government, but at the end of the day they always end up getting the cash somehow to finish public works improvement projects and we benefit from all the better stuff around us.

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