A cultural park sought for years by the Acjachemen Nation has been delayed again over concerns that using part of San Juan Capistrano’s Northwest Open Space for the simulated tribal village could draw legal challenges over the allowed use of recreational space.

“It’s hurtful and I don’t know what more to do,” said Jerry Nieblas, a tribal descendant who has been pushing for the park for years.

City Council members said at a meeting last week they felt they had no choice but to delay finding a company to build the park because they are not clear on whether the city’s zoning code allows for the village to be built there. The city has designs ready for a simulation of the tribe’s Putuidem Village off Camino Capistrano. For thousands of years, members of the Acjachemen Nation lived in the village before the Mission San Juan Capistrano drove out the tribe.

The council previously delayed the project over concerns about how it could be funded and maintained. But the council was expected to approve a scaled-down version at its meeting last week. Under the new plan, the park would have kept much of Acjachemen exhibits and artifacts, but not include features such as a multi-use trail, a new parking lot and equestrian-related amenities.

Councilman Troy Bourne said his issue is that the city’s zoning code doesn’t say anything about whether the village could be built at the location, which is zoned for a community park. The city has already settled, or lost, numerous lawsuits because of confusion in its zoning code, he said.

“I’m new at this, but I do think part of what my commitment was that I would try to minimize legal troubles we’ve had in the fewer years,” he said. “This is one of the ways to do that.”

Mark Nielsen, a former San Juan Capistrano councilman, has already threatened legal action over a proposal to turn another part of the Northwest Open Space into campgrounds. The proposal would trigger Measure X, he said, which requires voters’ approval for any proposal that would rezone the city’s open space.

The campground proposal would have brought Airstream trailers and safari tents for glamping, along with equestrian trails, a recreational center and potentially a community park.

City officials have disputed Nielsen’s argument, saying the proposal would keep the area zoned as open space. Under the proposal, only the area’s land use classification would change from “community park” to “open space recreation,” officials have said.

The council last week also voted to delay moving forward with the proposal.

“I don’t think we’ll see glamping in the city,” said Mayor Brian Maryott, who has opposed the campground proposal.

But he did not buy Bourne’s argument about the tribal village.

“Who is the harmed party by a small passive park that’s going to sue?” he asked Bourne at the council meeting on April 16.

“Who was the harmed party when we approved the hotel in a commercial site that the General Plan called for a hotel in?” Bourne shot back, referring to a lawsuit that stopped the construction of the Hotel Capistrano by Kimpton in the city’s downtown.

View this article in full along with images at The Orange County Register website: https://www.ocregister.com/2019/04/23/a-planned-tribal-village-in-san-juan-capistrano-hits-another-snag/.