At its July 20 meeting the Escondido City Council voted to study a new site for a multi-million-dollar water recycling plant whose first proposed site turned out to be quite controversial.
This is a different location from the controversial site that the planning commission rejected in April and which residents of that area turned out to give a Bronx cheer to at the May 25 city council meeting.
At Wednesday’s meeting the council authorized spending $200,000 for a consulting agreement for the first phase of the redesign of a membrane filtration/reverse osmosis facility for treatment of recycled water for agricultural irrigation.
The consulting agreement is with Black and Veatch Corporation for engineering services for the first phase of the design at a new location on a vacant lot near Washington & Ash.
The original site that was proposed — near Washington Avenue & El Norte Parkway — was rejected by the planning commission due to the fact that it was zoned residential and was surrounded by single family homes on two sides. Staff appealed the decision, but the council declined to override the rejection and on May 25 instead asked staff to come back with other alternatives.
Staff’s new choice is on city property located at the southeast corner of Washington and Ash Street. The commercially zoned property was formerly the Escondido Mutual Water Company yard. Currently it is being used for a contractor staging area. It is near a three- story retirement home community that is the home to about 110 residents.
The first phase of the study would be to prepare a site layout, and architectural renderings among other things. It would study issues of zoning and the environment, and whether the parcel has enough space.
The results would be brought back to the city council, which would decide whether to proceed with phase 2. The $200,000 will come from the city’s capital improvements fund.
Council member Olga Diaz asked that the study create a minimum footprint so that the city’s open space next to the Escondido creek channel could be expanded. “There’s just not enough open space,” she said.
During the public comment section a man representing the retirement community said that all 110 residents were opposed to the plant because they feared the noise it would cause. “If there is noise we would request noise abatement and that it be built as far west on the property as possible.”
City Manager Graham Mitchell noted that part of the study would include mitigation, such as buffering to minimize noise and other effects on the neighborhood.
“City ordinance says that we have to mitigate everything,” added Mayor Sam Abed.
The council voted 5-0 to authorize the expenditure.
According to Chris McKinney, director of utilities, the point of the study is to determine the site’s suitability. He told The Times-Advocate, “We had a list of alternative sites and this one rose to the top. All indications are that it would be a good site, but when you are talking about tens of millions of dollars you want to be sure.”
The project was originally proposed as part of the City’s Potable Water Reuse Program identified in the Recycled Water Master Plan. The city would use the plant to bring a new, high-quality water supply to local farmers, using existing water resources and help promote and support the local economy and agriculture.
The next meeting of the city council is August 17.