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Daley Ranch Resort could be poison pill for Escondido

Most cities look on annexing land and acquiring new taxable territory the same way that an anaconda looks at engorging a large mammal. Ummmm! Lunch!

So, it is natural that the City of Escondido is looking with hungry eyes and rumbling stomach on Daley Ranch Resort, a 1,783 acre parcel that the developers, J. Whalen Associates seek annexation to the city so that they can build a resort and some homes.

This project, which was just submitted to the city’s planning department for appraisal calls for a 225-room resort and 203 homes on 60 acres, with the rest of the land kept as open space.  The 200 acres that contains the development, and which includes an old macadamia nut farm, is owned by Sager Management Co. It hopes to purchase the remainder of the 1,800 acres from the city of Escondido and the County of San Diego.

The land is located between the city of Escondido owned-Lake Wohlford and Daley Ranch, also owned by the city. However, cutting the property in two is the County Road S-6, known along this stretch as Valley Center Road, and known locally as the Valley Center Grade.

If Escondido annexes the land it would be bisected by a County Road that would not be owned by the city.

Residents in Valley Center who know about the project (a small but growing number) are outraged because Whalen Associates claims that it has the pre-approval to put an exit and a signal light a short distance north of the police shooting range.

If the city annexes the county road associated with this area it would need to maintain the road, which gets considerable 60 mph traffic. If it does not annex the road, then fire service for the property would probably continue to be the responsibility of the Valley Center.

According to Valley Center Planning Group Chairman Oliver Smith, “we think the fire service is the Achilles Heel of this project because it doesn’t include Valley Center Road. We believe they don’t have a right to put Escondido fire engines on Valley Center Road. The city would need to annex Valley Center Road to legally be able to provide service to the project.”

The VC planning group doesn’t have any authority to review this project, but it does have a right to protest if Valley Center Road is going to be affected. Smith and the residents who are worried about the project say they could easily see a bottleneck created on the road as traffic that has been moving at a steady pace of 60 mph suddenly has to stop periodically.

This, says Smith, could push stop and go traffic up and down the grade, something that the city’s current Valley Pkwy/Valley Center Road Widening Project at the bottom of the grade is supposed to alleviate.  That project just passed the 130-day mark and is headed towards completion next year.

In 2017 Whalen made a presentation to the VC Planning Group, which indicated it opposes the project, although it is not allowed to take an official position.

What Smith calls an “Achilles Heel” might more accurately be called a “poison pill,” for the City since, if it acquires jurisdiction over the land, it won’t have control over fire service unless it decides to bite the bullet and annex that section of Valley Center Road.

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