Saturday, September 07, 2013

Coto de Caza Residents Oppose the Merryhill School Project



Opposition to the Assisted Living Center - The Hacienda Describing the proposal to turn the former Merryhill School Site into an assisted living and dementia care center; and why many of your neighbors are opposed.

As neighbors we wanted to make you aware of the attempt to develop the former Merryhill School site into an assisted living and dementia care facility right here in Coto de Caza. We want you to understand the proposed project and provide you an opportunity to voice your opinion.

This is an issue that affects ALL of Coto de Caza.

The power to protect the Coto de Caza quality of life and to shape what happens to the Merryhill School site is in your hands.

The Developer’s Proposal:
  • 57 assisted living units and 2 dementia care programs together housing 101 residents on 2 acres of land. The property is located adjacent to the equestrian center and the General Store, where the former Merryhill School was located. The proposed high-density residential facility exceeds the density of any neighborhood in Coto de Caza.

  • The land is owned by Nobel Learning Center. There is a purchase agreement for the land that has not yet closed. The proposed buyers are Hacienda Senior Living LLC, which is co-owned by Watermark Retirement Communities and Chandler Pratt & Partners with Oxbow Partners assisting.

The Process: The process to approve this project is just beginning. Many significant steps must be taken for the project to gain approval.

  • The property has not been purchased. Although a contract for sale is in place, the property currently is in escrow pending, among other things, securing County approval, completing due diligence, and payment of certain monies.

  • The Merryhill site is governed by County of Orange since the site is not part of any city and not governed by the CZ Master Association. This means the Orange County Board of Supervisors must grant final approval for any development project on the site. The Coto De Caza community and this site are located in the Orange County 5th district currently represented by Supervisor Patricia (Pat) Bates.

  • The developer must file an application with the County Planning Department to begin the County approval process. The planning department will review the developer’s plan to ensure the plan meets the requirements to proceed. The public will have an opportunity to comment during the plan review process.

  • The planning department staff will issue a report that will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on the proposed project. The public will have the opportunity to speak about the project when it is reviewed at a Board of Supervisor’s meeting. The 5 members of the Board of Supervisors will vote on the project.

  • The Board of Supervisors will look to the CZ Master Association for direction regarding what development is best suited to be located adjacent to our community. Although the CZ Master Association does not govern the Merryhill site, the County Board of Supervisors has stated that the Board will place significant weight on the recommendation of the CZ Master Association.

** Key Factor** - If the CZ Master Association will go on record opposing the project then we may potentially stop this development before an application is filed with the County. We have been told that a community wide meeting sponsored by the CZ Master Association will be held in October during which the developer and concerned residents will have the opportunity to comment on the project.

Why Coto Neighbors are opposed:
  • A high density, medical facility operating 24hrs a day will have a negative impact on our quiet rural community, with an increase in traffic, noise, parking and commercial vehicles.

  • Emergency response vehicle traffic will significantly increase on our neighborhood two-lane roads. Each call to the facility will require three responder vehicles; a fire truck, a fire ambulance and a private ambulance to transfer the patient. Moreover, these responses will occur at all hours of the day and night.

  • The facility potentially will place a significant burden on Coto’s existing emergency services. Are local emergency services scaled to serve and evacuate a large population of medically challenged individuals and maintain current service levels?

  • Assisted living and dementia care facilities are businesses that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Traffic congestion and noise will dramatically increase. The developer has advertised “very high caregiver to resident ratios.” Similar facilities employ ratios of 1 staff member for 1 patient. With 100+ residents, staffing could be 100+ employees. In addition to staff employees, residents likely will require additional support such as visiting doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dentists, spiritual comforters, hospice workers, funeral guidance individuals, staff hired directly by family, casual visitors and volunteers. Similar facilities in our area often have 60 visitors a day, and twice that or more on weekends and holidays.

  • Individuals currently experience long delays at our security gates. How will employees, visiting professionals, and family guests of the facility be allowed access into our community without creating more delays? The gate guards and patrols paid for by your HOA dues will be serving the demands of a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week business.

  • The developer’s current proposal provides for 42 – 46 parking spaces to accommodate the residents, employees, visiting medical staff, family and visitors. Inadequate parking likely will force overflow parking in nearby parks, neighborhoods and streets.

  • Public Safety will be impacted. Challenged residents who wander from the facility and enter Coto common area property pose a safety and liability risk to the resident, our families, and our community.

  • There is a concern that the facility could be converted to a drug and alcohol rehab facility in the future. Based on a legal advice obtained by Cotoneighbors the concern is valid. The developer’s material clearly states that the facility’s use is being made flexible to meet “market demands”. Similar projects in other neighborhoods have been converted to substance abuse rehab facilities.

  • All of these issues will impact our quality of life, and could cause our property values to decease.

Keep Informed!
  • The developer has stated that the project has local support and is a “done deal.” That is simply not true.

  • The Coto De Caza News has published biased, pro-project articles. Representatives of Cotoneighbors have contacted the paper to discuss our opposition to the proposed project. At this time, we have yet to receive the same consideration that the developer appears to have been given.

How You Can Stay Informed and Get Involved:

  • Send your contact information to to receive updates on the project.
  • Send a note to the CZ Master Association stating that you oppose the project. The Association email address is, and please copy so we can keep a record of opposition to the project.
  • Please consider attending all public meetings regarding the project.
  • Pass this information on to your neighbors and friends. 

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The Merryhill Project in Coto de Caza, Cui Bono?

Coto de Caza, CA - Who benefits from the proposed development of the Merryhill School site into the Hacienda Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility?  Historically and  according to the CZ Master Association - a homeowners association in the Coto de Caza community, as reported in the piece Coto’s Property Values Go Up Because I Say So Fallacy , everybody wins!

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