By Shawn Raymundo
Officials from The Ranch have remained tight-lipped regarding the next phase of planning for the ever-growing planned community that’s set to encompass nearly 6,000 acres of development, leaving close to 17,000 acres (or 75% of the land) as open space.
But a planning document, referred to as “The Ranch Plan,” that the County of Orange approved in 2015 notes that Rancho Mission Viejo’s Planning Areas 3 and 4 will sit on 3,313 acres of the unincorporated land located north and southeast of Ortega Highway—west of Caspers Regional Park.
“The planning for that area continues, and we look forward to sharing the details when they are completed.” Mike Balsamo, senior vice president of Rancho Mission Viejo, recently told The Capistrano Dispatch in an email.
According to the county, more than 2,400 acres of PA 3 and PA 4 are tagged for residential uses that can accommodate 7,500 total dwelling units. Another 270 acres of that space are planned for non-residential uses such as an Urban Activity Center, Neighborhood Center and Business Park. The remaining 627 acres will remain permanent open space reserve, the county notes.
Cow Camp Road, when completed, will provide east and west access through Planning Area 3. Currently, Cow Camp runs from Antonio Parkway to Esencia Drive and is expected to connect to Los Patrones Parkway, which is nearing completion after months of delays.
“Portions of Planning Area 3 have been used for agricultural, nursery and other lease uses for the past 120 years,” the planning document states. “Existing non-residential agricultural land uses within Planning Area 3 include avocado and citrus production areas and barley fields.”
Ortega Highway will traverse through the “westerly portion of Planning Area 4 in a generally north-south direction,” The Ranch Plan notes.
The county-approved document also shows that Urban Activity Center use in the planning areas will take up 201 acres and Business Park use is expected to incorporate 50 acres. A map included in The Ranch Plan depicts one Urban Activity Center planned for PA 3, just south of Cow Camp, and another in PA 4 in an area east of Ortega.
PA 3 is also expected to include a Business Park and an Urban Activity Commercial property, both north of Cow Camp, the map shows. The commercial property is being planned to sit on the eastern border of the area.
The 7,500 anticipated dwelling units will be made up of 1,817 Conventional Single-Family housing units, 1,809 Planned Concept dwellings and 3,874 Multiple-Family Dwellings, according to The Ranch Plan.
In addition to the 7,500 dwelling units expected for the two areas, another 2,919 units are estimated to be devoted for senior housing, which the planning document refers to as Age Qualified.
The 2015 planning document notes that the planned dwellings are estimates and subject to changes and revisions.
“Planning refinements and revisions may be made as these Residential Categories estimates shift and more detailed planning and engineering studies are finalized,” the document explains. “These totals will be monitored and modified over time to reflect as-built details.”
Currently, The Ranch consists of two primary sections, or villages—Sendero and Esencia—the first of which was developed in 2013 and the latter opening in 2016. The Village of Sendero covers nearly 450 gross acres and the Village of Esencia encompasses about 800 gross acres of space, according to the planning document.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow The Capistrano Dispatch @CapoDispatch.