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.