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South Laguna continues efforts for garden support

Committee will seek nonprofit status before trying to raise nearly $1 million for land.

November 29, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

South Laguna Civic Assn. officials will host a potluck from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday and other activities at the South Laguna Community Garden to bring attention to their efforts to buy the land.

The group believes bringing folks into the garden will raise support and funding for the purchase of the two plots in the 31600 block of Coast Highway that local gardeners have tilled for three years. The asking price is almost $1 million, which does not include fees to fundraising companies and the city's development department for a conditional use permit.

A holiday sing-a-long will be held at 3:30 p.m. Dec 15 and monthly programs are being discussed to lure folks into what the gardeners have transformed as a vegetable and fruit garden.

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"I assume everyone in Laguna and Dana Point has seen the garden, but I am sure being in it would broaden interest and support," association President Bill Rihn said.

Current zoning allows the garden with a temporary use permit. The use permit runs with the property unless the use lapses for one year. The South Laguna Commercial Zone makes the property available for commercial development or multi-residential units.

"The garden would fall into the no-more-noxious-than-other-uses category," Community Development Director John Montgomery said.

An association request for $251,000 of the city's money to jumpstart the fundraising campaign was denied by the City Council at the Nov. 13 meeting. That decision ended a proposed agreement with property owner Paul Tran to hold off selling the property for a specific period of time while the association tried to raise the money.

The association previously said it is entitled to the city money because it came from the sale of property in South Laguna that was identified on a 1927 tract map as parkland, while under county jurisdiction. Never used as a park, the property was inventoried as surplus county land and acquired by the city this year through a quit-claim deed.

"Since the city turned us down, everything is back on the table," Rihn said. "Now that we don't have to satisfy the city requirements anymore, we are reviewing everything."

However, the group hasn't given up all hope of getting funding from the city, according to Ann Christoph, former mayor and garden committee member.

They are considering making contact with new council members to test the waters, she said.

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