ORANGE COUNTY-A developer who was planning to build commercial space and more than 1,500 homes on a 649-acre parcel in environmentally sensitive Coal Canyon will instead sell the land at a $10-million discount to a group lead by local preservationists.

Steven St. Clair, principal of Newport Beach-based St. Clair Co., says he changed his mind about developing the parcel after talking with conservationists and government wildlife agencies. The parcel has been appraised at $50 million, but St. Clair accepted only $40 million to help activists pull their funding together.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation will provide $4.7 million toward the purchase, the Wildlife Conservation Board will pay $4 million and the Wildlands Conservancy will contribute $2.5 million. Orange County will pay $1 million and redirect millions more in its mitigation fund toward the acquisition.

Additional funding will come from private donors and others. The deal was approved Friday by the state Public Works Board in Sacramento.

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