Escondido, CA

Planning commission sends LHR to Board of Supervisors

The county’s Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) is targeting a tentative October 14 hearing date for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to consider Accretive Investments’ proposed Lilac Hills Ranch development.

A 4-3 vote September 11 by the county’s Planning Commission recommended approval of the project with conditions Leon Brooks, Doug Barnhart, David Pallinger, and Bryan Woods supported approval while Michael Beck, Peder Norby, and Michael Seiler recommended denial.

“I think we need the housing in San Diego, but I think the housing and the development has to pay the cost,” Barnhart said.

“I’m generally in favor of the project as long as we condition it,” Barnhart said. “I don’t have a problem putting a lot of conditions on the project.”

The Planning Commission’s conditions included the necessary funding to build a new fire station or expand the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s existing Miller station, a community facilities district to fund a three-person crew at the fire station, providing the land and funding construction of a new elementary school at a location to be determined, a 30-foot buffer on West Lilac Road, sewage treatment plant improvements to be made no later than completion of the first 100 homes, the commercial village to be built no later than completion of the first 1,000 homes, and a 25 mph design speed on Mountain Ridge Road.

“Every project has its challenges,” for senior citizens. The development as proposed would also include 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 Miller station, a site for a K-8 elementary school, 13.5 acres of public parks, 11.5 acres of private parks, 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 Valley Center and Bonsall community plan texts to add the proposed village. The property is within both the Bonsall and Valley Center community planning areas, in the Valley Center Municipal Water District, and in the Deer Springs Fire Protection District. The property is in both the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District and the Bonsall Unified School District. Lilac Hills Ranch would be built in five phases over a tenyear period.

Although the Environmental Impact Report found that some significant impacts could not be mitigated, county staff recommended a finding of overriding considerations including the school site, recreational benefits, and lowincome and moderate-income housing along with the tax revenue and employment economic benefits. Lilac Hills Ranch would provide 375 units considered low-income or moderate-income along with 468 senior housing units. Because the California Department of Transportation has no current plans for Interstate 15 improvements for which Accretive could pay its fair share, no mitigation for cumulative impacts to the freeway would occur. Cumulative impacts, projected in 2035, although not the Lilac Hills Ranch development on its own, would reduce the level of service on I-15 from E to F.

Accretive sought ten waivers from county road standards, and county staff was supportive of seven. One of the conditions that county staff recommended was to build West Lilac Road as a wider road than proposed by the project. The Accretive proposal, including the ten waivers, does not require any eminent domain. The 30-foot buffer and reduced parkway, would have eliminated any need for eminent domain on the northern end; while the county staff-recommended classification may require some eminent domain.

Traffic from the project would connect to West Lilac Road at a roundabout west of the hairpin curve north of the property boundary, so Accretive would grant the county an easement to realign the road south of the curve but would not build that road. The traffic studies indicate average daily volumes of 12,250 westbound vehicles and 660 eastbound vehicles entering West Lilac Road from the roundabout. Direct impacts to offsite roads would be mitigated in part by new traffic signals at Old Highway 395 and West Lilac, Old Highway 395 and Camino Del Rey, and the northbound and southbound off-ramps from Gopher Canyon Road to Interstate 15. Dedicated turn lanes would be added at the intersection of East Vista Way and Gopher Canyon Road.

Accretive and the Deer Springs Fire Protection District, in possible conjunction with CalFire and with the county for approval of the property tax collection procedure, would determine the specific method to achieve a fiveminute response time throughout Lilac Hills Ranch. The travel time from the nearest Deer Springs Fire Protection District station to the northern part of the project is seven minutes, which exceeds the general plan’s five-minute standard for village areas. The county currently has a contract with CalFire for the Miller station to operate year-round, but CDF stations are not obligated by law to provide structural fire protection or emergency medical services.

“The first phase can’t proceed until they meet the five-minute travel time,” said county project manager Mark Slovick.

“They cannot build unless they meet the five-minute response time,” Woods said. “That guarantees that the safety issue will be addressed.”

Since most of the development in the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District would be age-restricted, the majority of school-age children in the Lilac Hills Ranch area would be in the Bonsall Unified School District even though the currently-planned school site is within the VCPUSD boundaries. Accretive may fund a study on a possible boundary change between the two school districts. “It appears that the best for them is to have their development be in only one district,” said VCPUSD superintendent Mary Gorsuch.

Although the school district boundaries could be adjusted, the possibilities also include BUSD operating a charter school within the VCPUSD boundaries.

Gorsuch does not expect the additional students to cause a net operational loss once the school is constructed. “The funding from the state from attendance should cover the cost of the teachers,” she said.

Accretive consultant Chris Brown was willing to state Accretive’s commitment for the record. “We will absolutely work with the school district and then we will build them a school,” he said. “If the school site needs to be somewhere else we will build it and we will pay for it.”

(The payment may be through the community facilities district assessment rather than from Accretive.)

Phase 1 includes 352 single-family dwelling units, Phase 2 includes a total of 466 dwelling units, and Phase 3 includes 460 dwelling units. At this point Accretive plans to build Phase 1 and then Phase 4 before building Phase 2, Phase 3, and Phase 5.

“It’s a very good project within itself,” Woods said.

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