Escondido, CA

City council to consider sewage treatment plant near residential area

Escondido city council May 25 will consider overturning an April decision by the Planning Commission that denied a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to the city to develop a facility to provide advanced treatment of recycled water that the city’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) produces for agricultural use.

This Micro Filtration and Reverse Osmosis (MFRO) would take first stage treated sewage water from their Hale Avenue plant (HARFF), process it on a site zoned for residential single family homes (R-1) at 2512 East Washington Avenue, and then pump the treated water off to a number of agricultural locations to sell the reclaimed water. Customers include the East Valley Cemetery district, the Eaglecrest golf course, and the San Diego Safari Park as well as growers.

The facility would be 37 feet tall and include two structures, 191 feet by 114 feet, and the second 125 by 118 feet. Among other tanks and pipes it will contain pumps, machinery and over 25,000 gallons of chemicals.

Opponents complain that the CUP would allow the city to put an industrial plant on a vacant lot amidst a residential area.

The proposed site is on 3.25 acres located on the north side of East Washington Avenue and southern side of El Norte Parkway. When commissioners voted April 26 against the CUP, two of them suggested that the plant would reduce surrounding property values and one commissioner said that the landscaping and walls were inadequate to block it from view of the surrounding residences.

City staff asked to appeal the commission’s vote to the city council.

Opponents of the CUP cite the city’s Municipal Code, Article 10: Single-Family Residential (R-1) Zone: Section 33-160, which states, “The purpose of the single-family residential (R-1) zone is to encourage and promote a suitable environment for family life by providing a district for the establishment of one-family, detached dwellings, exclusively. (Zoning Code, Ch. 103, 1033.1).”

The code does allow “water storage” for residential zones, but the opponents argue that the plant in question is not a water storage project, nor is it referred to as one in the project description.

The City Planning Director’s argument is that before the water can be processed, it has to be stored first.

Tom Albergo, one of the residents who would be impacted by the plant, told The Times Advocate: “The thousands of affected residents adjacent to this proposed location request that the City Council adhere to their own rules, and do the RIGHT thing, and not just what’s easy. Find a suitable alternative location, even if it means spending a little more money for piping. Don’t degrade property values to hundreds if not a thousand homes, and don’t place caustic and known cancer causing chemicals immediately adjacent to homes.”

The city council meets on Wednesdays, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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