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Orange Planners delay Medical office on Chapman

Commissioners cite parking, loading and effect on neighbors.

Orange City News

The Orange Planning Commission delayed approval Monday for a medical office building on Chapman Avenue.

The delay caught the developer off guard and left city staff scrambling to get the project back on track.

David Valentine worked for months with the city's planning department on the proposed project to demolish two structures and construct a two-story, 21,000 square-foot ophthalmology center at 1031 W. Chapman Ave. Representing developer IDC West and Valentine Realty Co., he said that changes in planning staff during the project's formation created "a black hole."

"First time I've had that experience in the city of Orange," said Valentine. "I think a lot of this process that the developer is put through has been complicated by the fact that they lost a lot of staff. We're just in the mix at the wrong time."

Planning commissioners apologized to Valentine and said direction from planning staff was "unfortunate," but maintained the project needs to go through staff again.

"I think there was a void, if you will, between staff members," Chairman Phil Bonina said after the meeting.

Commissioner Ben Pruett was concerned the proposed medical office building may "overshadow" an adjacent two-story multi-family complex. Commissioner Denis Bilodeau expressed concern that parking may be insufficient.

Bilodeau said municipal code required a patient loading and drop-off area, that was not designated in the architectural plans. Valentine said the omission was an oversight, and project architect Darrell Hebenstreit of Architects Orange said the loading area could be easily added.

However, the oversight wasn't pointed out by planning staff or the Design Review Committee prior to moving the item forward to Planning Commission.

In addition, Planning Manager Leslie Aranda Roseberry said current codes left unclear whether a 100-foot unloading area applied to patients or products, or was required at the project.

"It's just a shame to get this far and have this type of lack of communication between agencies," Valentine said.

Other projects Valentine has brought to the city have gone through the planning process successfully. The Main Street medical building housing the Cordelia Knott Center for Wellness at 230 S. Main St. garnered an award for the city's Redevelopment Agency, "a feather in their cap," Valentine said.

The fate of the property situated on the northwest corner of Citrus Street and Chapman Avenue has been considered by the city once in 2003.

Plans to build a 29-unit affordable housing project on the site met with opposition from residents and was subsequently scrapped.

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