Developer to build on empty land in Coto de Caza

Khalda Development will build seven mansions on 14 acres; another 113 acres will be set aside as open space.


COTO DE CAZA – A Mission Viejo company plans to build estate homes on the last significant stretch of developable land in Coto de Caza.

Khalda Development owns 127 acres on the east side of the gated community, adjacent to Starr Ranch Sanctuary. The company plans to build seven mansions on 14 of those acres, dedicating the rest as open space habitat reserve.

Article Tab: Part of an old building sits off the Grand Coto Trail in Coto de Caza, the access point to a proposed 14 acre development within the 127 acre site sits off Van Gogh Way.
Part of an old building sits off the Grand Coto Trail in Coto de Caza, the access point to a proposed 14 acre development within the 127 acre site sits off Van Gogh Way.

What’s next for Coto Estates

•Khalda Development will either bring in a builder to develop all seven properties or pursue a custom-lot program, with the decision and timing based on the market.

•Homeowners will be able to enter Coto Estates through a new access road that will be cut into a slope along Van Gogh Way and two spurs for the houses, with five houses to the north and two larger properties to the south.

•All properties will feature between 20,000 and 35,000 square feet of buildable space. The homes will sit on 2- to 7-acre parcels, part of which will belong to the habitat reserve and won’t be buildable.

“It’s this little Shangri-La out there,” said Jon Petke, planning consultant for Coto Estates. “The market is still a little bit soft but these are some pretty special properties.”

Minus a handful of lots sprinkled throughout the community, Coto has been essentially built out for a decade.

Khalda has built more than 70 custom homes throughout Southern California and has owned the Coto acreage since 1994, Petke said. The company’s low-profile owners have tried to develop multiple projects on the property, thwarted each time by encumbrances stemming from endangered species, easement issues and years of political jockeying over what should happen with the land.

Then project manager Joe Blum, who helped develop other Coto neighborhoods, came along with the Coto Estates plan. Soon regulatory agencies gave the green light and the board for CZ Master homeowners association – which Coto Estates will likely join – drafted a letter of endorsement.

“They said, ‘We still can’t believe you’re giving away 113 acres as open space, but we like it,'” Petke said.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved Coto Estates in December 2011, granting Khalda permission to subdivide and rezone the property from recreational to residential.

In keeping with Coto’s history as a hunt preserve, about 5 acres on the southeast corner of the property were used as a skeet-shooting range from 1990 to 1992. The land has been vacant since that time, though shooting platforms and other less visible remnants of that past remain.

As a condition of the 2011 approval, Khalda agreed to clean up the lead and other contaminants left behind in the soil by the clay shooting targets. The process will take around two weeks, Blum said.

Despite its low density, not everyone is thrilled with the coming Coto Estates.

“I feel like I live in a national park right now,” said Lea Ann Miller, whose Atherton Drive home is a few hundred feet from the site. “I bought in a master-planned community and I bought where my home backed up to conservation easement so that it would never be developed.”

Miller was among the few residents who complained to the county and CZ Master about how the project will impact property values and use of the land as a recreational area. She said her concerns were not resolved.

“Of course when they bought their property, some broker said, ‘Nobody can build out there,” Petke said. “I think that’s because they didn’t know how to get it done.”

Khalda submitted initial building permit applications to the county in December. It plans to pull grading permits by mid-2013, Blum said.

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