Escondido, CA

Escondido voters will help determine future of Lilac Hills Ranch

A view of the land where the Accretive Group would like to build Lilac Hills Ranch. Photo courtesy of San Diego County

A view of the land where the Accretive Group would like to build Lilac Hills Ranch. Photo courtesy of San Diego County

Now the fate of the 1,743-unit Lilac Hills Ranch on 608 acres belongs to the voters — of the entire County. Voters in Escondido will have a say in whether the development that is just on the periphery of its sphere of influence is built.

So will voters in Carlsbad, El Cajon, Del Mar and the city of San Diego.

The proposed project is located next to the I-15 Cor­ridor near West Lilac.

The County Supervisors voted for the Lilac Hills Ranch community project initiative to be on the ballot in November after the 30 day independent staff analy­sis was reviewed on Tuesday, August 2.

“We’re not going to decide this is­sue,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts on Tuesday, joining three other super­visors to officially place the project initiative on November’s ballot for a countywide vote. Supervisors voted 4-0 after hearing a County study out­lining differences between the project ballot initiative that voters will consid­er and the project that County planners evaluated.

Supervisors said at their July 19 meeting that they were inclined to put the initiative on the ballot. However, they asked the County’s Planning and Development Ser­vices Department to assemble an impact report for voters. This report will be part of the election package voters can study prior to marking their ballots.

The analysis compares the ini­tiative version of the project to both the County’s exist­ing general plan and the version of the project that the County’s Planning Commission rec­ommended that the Board of Supervi­sors approve, with changes and modi­fications, in September 2015.

The 45-page report was released to the public July 29. You can download a copy of the report on the Times-Ad­vocate website.

Lilac Hills Ranch backers, the Ac­cretive Group, submitted the project to the County for review and processing in 2012. After the Planning Commis­sion recommended the Board approve the project with changes in September 2015, Accretive announced they would seek signatures to put the project on the ballot. The County’s Registrar of Voters certified last month that Lilac Hills had qualified as an initiative.

That gave the Board of Supervisors two possible actions under state elec­tions law — to adopt the initiative project in whole, or place it on the bal­lot.

During the discussion leading up to the vote, Supervisor Greg Cox com­mented, “The developer is completely within his right to gather the legally required signatures to take this issue to the voters. We’ll leave it up to the vot­ers to decide.”

Accretive has proposed 1,746 resi­dences consisting of 903 single-family detached homes, 164 single-family at­tached homes, 211 mixed-use residen­tial units, and 468 age-restricted dwell­ings within a neighborhood designated for senior citizens. It would also have 90,000 square feet of commercial of­fice space, a 50-room country inn, a 200-bed group care facility, a recycling facility, a water reclamation facility, a new fire station if not a remodel of the Cal Fire existing Miller station, a site for a K-8 elementary school, 13.5 acres of public parks, 11.5 acres of pri­vate parks, 16 miles of trails, and 104 acres of biological open space.

The proposed general plan amend­ment would change the land use cate­gory from Semi-Rural to Village while revising the VC and Bonsall commu­nity plan texts to add the proposed vil­lage.

The project is within both the Bon­sall and Valley Center community planning areas, in the VC Municipal Water District, and in the Deer Springs Fire Protection District. It is in both the VC-Pauma Unified School District and the Bonsall Unified School Dis­trict.

July 19 the supervisors voted 4-0 to certify that the petition had sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot and to order an impact study be completed by July 29.

Opponents sought a 30-day report period, which would have prevented the initiative from appearing on the 2016 ballot. An Environmental Impact Report was included in the project approved by the Planning Commission, so the board felt that a ten-day period for county staff to compile an impact report was suffi­cient.

“An exceptional job has been done by all to do this report in just ten days,” said Super­visor Dianne Jacob.

“It truly was a Herculean task,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts.

“I think our staff has certainly risen to the occasion,” Cox said.

The impact study compares the gen­eral plan as adopted in August 2011, the proposal approved by the Planning Commission, and the initiative.

“The impact report breaks down a huge complex project,” Roberts said.

“The information is important,” Ja­cob said. “This is going to give the public additional information, clarity, and transparency on the project.”

A leading opponent of the project, VC resident Steve Hutchison, com­mented, “The information you have provided will help voters.”

“The applicant has one perspective and the community has another per­spective,” said James Gordon, another leader of the opposition. “We will rely on the county’s impact study.”

“I thank staff for a very fair evalu­ation,” said Pauma Valley resident Patsy Fritz. “We can now educate the voters.”

Mark Slovick, PDS project man­ager says “The initiative would com­ply with the general plan through the amendment.”

“I have deep concerns about ballot box planning. I don’t think it’s a re­sponsible way to shape development in our community,” Jacob said as the board prepared to vote.

Cox noted that portions of the impact study would be used by proponents while other portions would be used by opponents. “I hope that the voters will also find it helpful to them,” he said.

“I think our goal is accomplished,” Dave Roberts said. “This report pro­vides voters with the information they need to make an informed decision. It’s up to the voters to make that decision.”

Cassandra Costa, assistant project manager, Accretive In­vestments will speak to the next meeting of the Escondido Cham­ber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee on Lilac Hills Ranch. Find out more about Lilac Hills Ranch, the bal­lot initiative and how this proj­ect could impact North County. The meeting will be Thursday, August 11, noon, at the Cham­ber office at 720 N Broadway, Es­condido, CA. Call 760-745-2125 to RSVP.

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